A Macon family foundation has provided funds for four clinics in Vietnam where local doctors and technicians can provide amputees, who have lost limbs primarily from unexploded ordnance left over from the Vietnam War, with specially fitted prosthetics.
Mercer University announced on June 26 that its “Mercer On Mission” program, which is served by the clinics, fitted its 10,000th Vietnamese amputee earlier this week.
The program was begun in 2009 by Ha Van Vo, a distinguished university professor of biomedical engineering, who designed a prosthetic leg that weighs less than two pounds and reportedly can be worn comfortably.
Craig McMahan, Mercer’s university minister and dean of chapel, oversees the program and says in the release, “What’s been at the heart of this program is this prosthetic leg that Dr. Vo designed. It’s an incredible piece of equipment. It is very light and durable, and it’s a very comfortable prosthesis. It weighs less than two pounds so amputees find it to be very comfortable and functional.”
Dr. Vo grew up in Vietnam after the war and witnessed the tragic consequences of the unexploded ordnance that has claimed so many limbs of his fellow Vietnamese.
According to the Mercer news release, there have been more than 100,000 amputees who have suffered from this legacy of the war. It also said that many of them can only find employment if they have the use of two legs.
At first, Dr. Vo manufactured the prosthetics on the Mercer campus in Macon, and Mercer students and faculty members would travel to Vietnam to attach the prosthetics. On their first trip a decade ago, they fit 38 people in the town of Phung Hiep.
Today, however, the prosthetics are produced and attached to the amputees by doctors and technicians at the four clinics funded annually by the Sheridan family foundation.
In the absence of Dr. Vo and his team, local doctors and technicians receive the training year-round.
The Mercer On Mission program has fitted around 10 percent of the amputees in the country, according to the release, allowing thousands of people to live productive lives they wouldn’t have been able to otherwise.
Under the program, more than a dozen trips have been made to Vietnam. In addition, the program organized a trip to Haiti following that country’s devastating earthquake in 2010 and the United Nations and other international agencies, are considering expanding the program into other countries, the release says.
The program combined study abroad and service-learning to provide experiences for students through academic instruction, cultural immersion, meaningful service and spiritual reflection.
For more information, visit mom.mercer.edu
For an earlier Global Atlanta article on the program, click here.