Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Northwestern University Prosthetics-Orthotics Center

History of NUPOC

Northwestern University Prosthetics-Orthotics Center (NUPOC) has a long history of education and leadership in our field. The following timeline outlines major events at NUPOC and the fields of prosthetics and orthotics.

1945

On January 30, 31 and February 1, 1945, the National Research Council (NRC) convened a meeting in Thorne Hall (razed 1981) on the Northwestern University (NU) campus. In response to the need for better artificial limbs for World War II veterans, 80 physicians, prosthetists, engineers, administrators, and physical therapists attended the meeting. Prominent were Paul Magnuson, MD, (Chairman of Bone and Joint Surgery at NU, and civilian consultant to the US Surgeon General from 1941 through 1946) and Paul Klopsteg, PhD, ScD (Director of Research, NU Technological Institute). It was decided that centers for prosthetics would be established within the NRC the Committee on Prosthetics Devices, which became the Advisory Committee on Artificial Limbs, and later became the Committee on Prosthetics Research and Development (CPRD).

1946

Paul B. Magnuson, MD, (1884-1968) approved Veterans Affairs (VA) support of the national prosthetics research program developed through the National Research Council (NRC). (Journal of Rehabilitation Research and Development, 39(6):2002, "Development of rehabilitation engineering over the years: As I see it")

Former chair of the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at the Feinberg School, Paul B. Magnuson, MD, was the founder of the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC). He served as president of its board of directors from 1955-1957. Dr. Magnuson was a renowned orthopedic surgeon who became an advocate for people with disabilities while serving as the medical director for the Veterans Administration during World War II.” 

1952

Robert G. Thompson, MD, joined Drs. Clinton Compere, Edward Compere, and William Schnute as a partner in their orthopaedic surgery practice group. The group began to prescribe prostheses for individuals with amputation. Hildegarde Myers, RN, RPT, trained patients to use their prostheses.

1956

Clinton Compere, MD, established the Northwestern University Prosthetics Research Laboratory (NUPRL). The Northwestern University PRL, was at times called the Prosthetics Research Center (PRC) and the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Program (RERP). Initially, the PRL was located in the basement of the RIC, which was located at 401 E. Ohio Street.

The VA expanded its prosthetics research and, through the VA’s Prosthetics and Sensory Aids Service, funded the Northwestern University Prosthetics Research Laboratory (NUPRL) in Chicago.

1957

Clinton Compere, MD (Chairman, NU Department of Orthopedic Surgery) invited Canadian engineer Colin McLaurin, ScD, and Canadian prosthetist Fred Hampton, CP, to guide the development of NUPRL and the NUPRL prosthetics research program. (Journal of Rehabilitation Research and Development, 39(6):2002, Supplement, p4, "Development of rehabilitation engineering over the years: As I see it"; and Capabilities April 1997:6.)

Colin McLaurin, a Canadian engineer with an extensive background in P&O, and Fred Hampton, CP, joined Dr. Compere in the development of PRL. (See Capabilities, April 1997:6).

1958

Working with Clinton Compere, MD, Hildegarde Myers, RN, RPT, Robert Thompson, MD, and Colin McLaurin, ScD, established the Northwestern University Prosthetics-Orthotics Center (NUPOC). NUPOC was the third prosthetics education program to be established in the USA (See Capabilities 1997:4.) VA-funded prosthetics education programs were established on each coast at the University of California (Los Angeles) in 1952 (now defunct) and New York University in 1956 (now defunct).

The Vocational Rehabilitation Administration (VRA) funded NUPOC to serve the Midwest. (See Capabilities, July 1997:5). Since 1958, NUPOC has been a national leader in educating Prosthetics and Orthotics (P&O) practitioners. From 2010 NUPOC education and research have operated as a single entity.

Clinton Compere, MD, worked with psychologist Warren Perry, PhD, to develop the NUPOC Prosthetics education curriculum. (See Capabilities, July 1997:5).

1959

Clinton Compere, MD, recruited H. Blair Hanger, CP, to serve as Director of Prosthetics Education at NUPOC. Mr. Hanger served in this capacity from 1959 until 1977. (See Capabilities, July 1997:5).

1962

Clinton Compere, MD, invited Jack Armold, PhD, to become Director of NUPOC. Dr. Armold served as Director of the NUPOC education program from 1962 until 1968.

Charles Fryer, MPT, lectured in anatomy and biomechanics at NUPOC from 1962 until 1988.

1964

Clinton Compere, MD, invited Edward C. Grahn, BSE, to become Director of NUPRL from 1964-1972. In 1964, NUPRL staff consisted of Mr. Grahn, Fred Hampton, CP, Fred Sammons, OT, Walter Horiuchi (technician), Gus Weiskopf (machinist), and Paula Hamilton (secretary). (See Capabilities, July 1997:4.)

1966

Clinton Compere, MD, hired Dudley S. Childress, PhD. Dr. Childress, a Northwestern University graduate, became the first biomedical engineer appointed to a faculty position in the medical school. Dr. Childress was a joint appointee in NU Departments of Orthopedic Surgery and Electrical Engineering. Dr. Compere and Dr. Childress co-directed the Northwestern University Rehabilitation Engineering Research Program (NURERP), which developed two major foci: orthopaedic implants for the knee and hip; and assistive technical aids for individuals with severe physical impairments. (See Capabilities, April 1997:3.)

Gunter Gehl, CP(E), joined the NUPOC education program.

The NUPOC Orthotics education program began.

1967

NUPOC moved to 461 E. Ohio Street.

1968

CPRD funded Dudley S. Childress, PhD, to travel to Yugoslavia to meet rehabilitation engineering investigators.

Dudley S. Childress, PhD, became a Charter Member of the Biomedical Engineering Society (founded in 1968). (See Tech Anthology II)

Charles Fryer, MA, became Director of the P&O education program at NUPOC. He served in this capacity from 1968 to 1988.

James Russ, CO(E), became Director of NUPOC Orthotics education program. He served in this capacity from 1967 to 1973, when he became the first Director of both P&O programs at NUPOC. Mr. Russ served as Director of both P&O programs from 1973 to 1992.

Paul B. Magnuson, MD, died.

Dudley S. Childress, PhD, research colleagues, and John N. Billock, CPO/L developed the Northwestern myoelectric system, the first commercial, North American, self-suspended and self-contained myoelectric system with proportional control, allowing the user to control the speed of fingers and rate of change of grip force. This device was successfully fitted on Richard Shearer, a below elbow amputee. (See “Dudley Childress, PhD: A “Renaissance Man” Exerts a Lasting Influence on P&O” in The O&P Edge, March 2011)

1969

Dudley S. Childress, PhD, was elected to membership in CPRD.

1970

May Cotterman, MEd, PT, began working as an instructor at NUPOC and became Clinical Assistant Professor, Emeritus, in 2009.

1971

Dudley S. Childress, PhD, became Chair of the CPRD Upper-Extremity Prosthetics Panel.

1972

Dudley S. Childress, PhD, was funded by the CPRD to tour upper limb research laboratories in Europe.

Dudley S. Childress, PhD, became director of NUPRL. Dr. Childress directed NUPRL from 1972 to 2004.

The first National Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center (RERC) for Prosthetics & Orthotics was established at the Northwestern University Prosthetics Research Center (now NUPOC). VA funds were augmented by funding from the new National Institute on Handicapped Research (NIHR) under the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. Later, NIHR was renamed the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR).

NUPRL contributed to the development of sip-and-puff control for motorized wheelchairs and communication devices, such as typewriters. Sip-and-puff control enabled individuals with quadriplegia to control acceleration and direction using the force of their breath.

Between this year and 1977, RERC Development Goals Projects included studies of endo-prostheses of the knee and hip; development of technical equipment for persons with quadriplegia; and myoelectric upper limb prostheses to provide good control over a wide range of output velocities or forces.

1973

James Russ, CO, became first Director of both prosthetics and orthotics education programs at NUPOC. Mr. Russ served as Director of both P&O programs from 1973 to 1992.

Margaret Pfrommer, who from adolescence lived with quadriplegia due to polio, began working at the Northwestern University Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center for Prosthetics & Orthotics. Ms. Pfrommer contributed (1973-1998) to NUPOC as “a peer counselor, author, teacher, advocate for persons with disability, receptionist, research assistant, and champion of assistive technology.” (Journal of Rehabilitation Research and Development, 39(6):2002, "Development of rehabilitation engineering over the years: As I see it".)

1974

NUPRL moved to the 14th floor and NUPOC moved to the 17th floor of the new RIC.

1977

Guenter Gehl, CP(E) became Director of the NUPOC Prosthetics education program from 1977 to 1992.

1981

Margaret Pfrommer presented the E&J Lecture at the 4th Annual Meeting of Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA), Washington, DC, September 2, 1981. Ms. Pfrommer “played a positive role in the development of wheelchair controllers, environmental controllers, communication aides, telephone controls, computer interface systems, home respiratory aids, and independent living…and promoted rehabilitation technology locally, nationally, and internationally.” (See “Dudley Childress, PhD: A “Renaissance Man” Exerts a Lasting Influence on P&O” in The O&P Edge, March 2011.)

1985

Biomedical Engineering was established as department at the Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science (See: Tech Anthology II)

1988

Michael Brncick, MEd, CPO, was named Interim Director of the NUPOC P&O Program.

1992

Dudley S. Childress, PhD, became a Founding Fellow of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering. (See: Tech Anthology II)

Dudley S. Childress, PhD, was named Director of NUPOC.

The SQUIRT-Shape socket-fabrication method was developed by Joshua Rolock, PhD (née Rovick). This early additive technology presaged 3-D printer technology and allowed the one-step fabrication of prosthetic sockets, potentially eliminating the need for fabricating sockets from plaster molds.

Mark Edwards, MHPE, CP, was named Director of the NUPOC Prosthetics education program.

Laura Fenwick, CPO, was named director of the NUPOC Orthotics education program.

1995

Bryan Malas, MHPE, CO, CPed, was named the Director of the Orthotics Education program at NUPOC.

Dudley S. Childress, PhD, was inducted into the Institute of Medicine.

1997

Dudley S. Childress, PhD, exchanged his Medical School faculty appointment from the Department of Orthopedic Surgery to the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. The NUPOC research programs (NUPRL & NURERP) and the P&O clinical education program (NUPOC) also became part of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R).

1998

With VAMC assistance, NUPRL developed a state-of-the-art motion analysis system. Today the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center Motion Analysis Research Laboratory is located on site at NUPOC.

After 25 years working with NUPOC, Margaret Pfrommer died due to complications of Post-Polio Syndrome.

2003

Michael Brncick, MEd, CPO, was named Director of the NUPOC P&O Program.

Steven A. Gard, PhD, became Director of Northwestern University Prosthetics Research Laboratory & Rehabilitation Engineering Research Program.

Desmond Masterton, MS, CO, CPed, was named Director of the Orthotics Education Program at NUPOC.

2004

Dudley S. Childress, PhD, became NU Professor Emeritus.

2005

2006

The Prosthetics Research Laboratory hosted a Festschrift and Scientific Symposium in honor of the career contributions of Dudley S. Childress. Access the compilation of retrospective essays contributed by many of Childress' former master's and doctoral students: "A Festschrift in Honor of Dudley S. Childress, PhD", eds. Steven A. Gard and R. J. Garrick, (C)2006. 

2007

Steven A. Gard, PhD, became Executive Director of NUPOC.

2008

Tom Karolewski, CP, was named Interim Director of the Prosthetics education program at NUPOC.

2009

John W. Michael, CPO/L, Med, FAAOP, FISPO, became Associate Director of NUPOC education program.

Tom Karolewski, CP, was named Director of the Prosthetics education program at NUPOC until 2010 when he left NUPOC.

2010

The NUPOC research programs (NUPRL & NURERP) and the P&O clinical education program (NUPOC) officially merged to become the single entity, NUPOC. NUPOC relocated to the custom-designed research and education facilities at 680 North Lake Shore Drive, Suite 1100, Chicago, IL.

2011

NUPOC won a 2011 Merit Award for Interior Buildouts from the Chicago Building Congress.

2012

Michael Brncick, MEd, CPO, became Adjunct Instructor at NUPOC.  

John W. Michael, CPO/L, Med, FAAOP, FISPO, became Director of NUPOC.

2013

NUPOC discontinued the Blended Learning Program Certificates in Prosthetics & Orthotics.

NUPOC began to offer the Master’s in Prosthetics & Orthotics (MPO), a new graduate degree in the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Edward C. Grahn, BSME, who joined the laboratory in 1964, retired after 49 years of service.

2014

Dudley S. Childress, PhDDudley S. Childress, PhD, (September 25, 1934 - August 6, 2014) died. Tributes to Dr. Childress were published by Northwestern University, American and international professional societies and colleagues who worked with Childress and his innovativtions in rehabilitation engineering. He was honored at a memorial service that was attended by more than 200 colleagues, friends and family. Access the MP3 audio files and eulogies presented at the memorial service in honor of Dudley Childress. The Childress Fund has been established to carry forward the work of Dudley Childress through research and education at NUPOC. 

2015 

In March 2015, the generosity of Mrs. Nancy Childress, the Childress family, and many other contributors enabled Northwestern University to establish the Dudley S. Childress, PhD Endowment for Research and Education. Future gifts in honor of Dudley Childress can be made to the Dudley S. Childress, PhD, Fund for Research and Education, thus increasing the value and efficacy of the Endowment. 

2016

Edward C. Grahn (1936-2016)Edward C. Grahn, BSME, (October 13, 1936 –January 21, 2016) died. Mr. Grahn was a graduate of Illinois Institute of Technology, served in the U.S. Army, and was stationed at the Army Prosthetics Research Center, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where he was recruited by NUPRL founder, Clinton Compere, MD, to replace Colin McLaurin as the lab's director. Mr. Grahn directed NUPRL from 1964 until 1972 when the directorship passed to Dudley S. Childress, PhD. Mr. Grahn was associate director until his retirement from Northwestern University in 2013. Mr. Grahn excelled in translating research and development concepts into fine mechanical drawings that could be fabricated into 3-dimensional devices. He was closely involved in dozens of research and development projects for both upper and lower limb prosthetic and assistive devices, including 22 years of project work under the Northwestern University Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center (NU-RERC) for Prosthetics and Orthotics funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR, 1991-2013). 

NUPOC History