Apr 8, 2017 | By Julia
A 2017 OZY Genius Award has been granted to Claudine Humure of Wheaton College, for her 3D printed adjustable prosthetic socket. The prestigious award, funded by OZY Media, aims to support and celebrate the next Albert Einstein, Oprah Winfrey, or Mark Zuckerberg, granting up to $10,000 for the outstanding innovations of 10 college students.
This year, one of the lucky students was Humure: a 24-year-old Rwandan student at Wheaton College in Illinois, who is currently completing a biomechatronics research internship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Media Lab.
Humure’s groundbreaking innovation is a 3D printed adjustable prosthetic socket, aimed at amputees in developing countries who can’t afford the prosthetic limbs on the market today.
The project, as Humure tells it, was a long time coming: the young award winner lost her leg to bone cancer at the age of 12. As a survivor of the Rwandan genocide, Humure says she “grew up seeing amputees around, but never thought anything about it until [she] became an amputee [herself]”.
“I thought I was going to die when the doctors [diagnosed] me, because that was all I knew about cancer. I thought that was my fate,” she says. “Then they said they had to amputate my leg the next day. I was crying so hard. I hated the doctors who were telling me the news since everything was happening so fast.”
After her operation, Humure was flown to Boston by an American charity for more treatment, including chemotherapy and surgery that would prepare her leg for a prosthetic. Following almost a year of recovery, Humure returned home with an artificial leg.
But when that prosthetic broke, Humure was faced with the struggle of finding a new prosthetic leg in a low-income country.
“I had seen what was possible. A good prosthesis fits well and feels comfortable. You can do anything with it, you feel normal.”
After the wealthy hospitals of New England, the relative lack of resources in Rwanda was even more impossible to ignore: an inequality that drove Humure towards the innovation we see today.
Returning to the U.S., Humure began studying prosthetics. After completing her final high school project on the design of prosthetic limbs, the young Rwandan began volunteering at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston. There, she worked directly with victims of the 2013 marathon bombing, an experience that further motivated her research.
Perhaps the most important twist of fate, however, was Humure’s first encounter with 3D printing. After securing a biomechatronics research internship at MIT’s presitigious Media Lab, Humure was introduced to Hugh Herr, a pioneer in prosthetics, and an amputee himself.
“This was life-changing,” says Humure about her entrypoint into 3D printing. “My eyes opened. I saw all this cutting-edge research when we had such bad prostheses in Rwanda. I looked at my own prosthetic leg and started thinking.”
Eventually, Humure arrived at her current juncture: designing and 3D printing an adjustable socket that connects her residual limb to her prosthetic, one of the most common points of pain and discomfort for prosthetic-wearers.
“I am making the socket lighter, easier to use and cheaper to manufacture. But what makes the design special is that the user can adjust it to make it more comfortable. In developing countries, people just do not have the time to keep traveling to clinics,” she explains.
Long term, Humure dreams of opening specialist clinics in Rwanda and around Africa. For the time being, however, she’ll continue realizing her own prosthetic innovation and conducting research.
And of course, gratefully accepting credit where it’s due. Last Friday, Humure formally received her award with nine other recipients at the OZY Genius Awards Ceremony in New York City.
Posted in 3D Printing Application
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Claudine Humure wrote at 4/11/2017 4:35:03 AM:
I go to Wheaton College in Massachusetts