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The University of Southampton
Institute for Life Sciences

Modern prosthetics and orthotics for a global audience

Published: 13 December 2016
FortisNet Team
The FortisNet team at the Rehabilitation International World Congress

Pioneering research from Southampton’s FortisNet network was shared with a global audience at a prestigious international conference.

An interdisciplinary team from the University’s Institute of Life Sciences (IfLS) presented a parallel session Modern prosthetics and orthotics – an interdisciplinary approach at the recent Rehabilitation International World Congress (RIWC).

The team was led by IfLS and FortisNet member Dr Alex Dickinson, who conducts research into the use of imaging technology to develop more durable, comfortable prosthetic limbs.

Alex outlined FortisNet’s impact across the UK and how this collaborative model could be replicated across the globe. The audience of the world’s top disability experts heard how Alex’s technology could be introduced to remote communities in low and middle income countries that otherwise wouldn’t have access to prosthetic clinics.

The parallel session shared the history of FortisNet, which was launched a year ago to bring together leading academics and industry experts to develop a unique, collaborative, regional hub in musculoskeletal health and disease.

Presentations were also given by Alex’s IfLS colleagues from Health Sciences and Engineering and the Environment, and an industry colleague who is also a prosthesis user. They included:

The User’s Perspective: covering the challenges of transition from pre-amputated self to amputee self from the unusual perspective of a prosthetist who has had an amputation due to a congenital limb deficiency,

The Application of Clinical Engineering: describing the latest technologies for improving prosthetic services around the world,

Incorporating a Biopsychosocial Approach: gaining an in-depth understanding of the patient’s views and experience to deliver holistic healthcare taking into account physical and psychological care and rehabilitation, and

Engaging the Public and Service Users in Design: showing how service users are engaged as research partners in designing and developing clinical trials ensuring the research is focused on the people it serves.

IfLS Director Professor Peter J S Smith said: “It was an honour to be invited to take part in this prestigious four-day conference. It gave us the opportunity to enhance and build the reputation of FortisNet as a bridge between academia, business and the end user. We are developing a pipeline into business that can be expanded nationally and internationally, particularly into low and middle income economies.

“The session generated a lot of new interest in FortisNet from a broad range of service users, clinicians, academics and policymakers.”

Presenter Dr Maggie Donovan-Hall, Associate Professor in Health Psychology, said: “Amputation and prosthetic rehabilitation is a demanding, complex and evolving area of healthcare and this was a fantastic opportunity to come together as an interdisciplinary team involving the researcher, educator, clinician and end-user to raise issues and showcase work within this area.”

Alex added: “We have made some excellent contacts from across the globe, that we are hoping will engage with us in our future research and ensure our objectives and developments remain user-focused.”

Industry colleague Eanna Durham, a prosthetist with Opcare – the UK’s largest provider of prosthetic services to the NHS – and a prosthesis user, gave a fascinating talk outlining his unusual view as a user and clinician. He said: “It was a privilege to have presented alongside the IfLS team. I am in the unique position of being a prosthetic limb user, working as a prosthetist, and it is very encouraging to see the work that has gone into FortisNet.

“As individual healthcare practitioners it can be difficult to help advance and develop our profession. The interdisciplinary and collaborative approach employed by FortisNet is an exciting solution to many of the problems we face in healthcare.”

To find out more about FortisNet visit

The Team: (L-R) Dr Lesley Collier, Eanna Durham, Alison Raw (Department of Health, Session Chair), Prof Peter JS Smith, Dr Peter Worsley, Prof Jo Adams, Dr Maggie Donovan Hall, Dr Cheryl Metcalf, Dr Alex Dickinson, Dr Alexandra Mant

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