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Vietnam: Helping Amputees Recover from a Legacy of Conflict

Mercer students and faculty, above, fit and distribute Mercer-designed low-cost prosthetic legs to amputees in Vietnam. Mercer students and engineering faculty fitted and distributed Mercer-designed low-cost prosthetic legs to amputees in Vietnam. The project is part of a three year initiative by Mercer to provide amputees with low-cost prosthetics that can be fitted without having to be fully customized. Because amputees in developing countries cannot afford expensive customized prosthetics, they often must go without them. Mercer has developed a new form of inexpensive prosthetics, which do not require full customization. Designed by Mercer School of Engineering students, the prosthetics use a universal socket technology developed by Dr. Ha Van Vo, a native of Vietnam, and a biomedical engineering professor. The group is also training local medical personnel to adapt the prosthetics to fit individual amputees.

The project is addressing a worldwide problem, which is particularly acute in Vietnam. More than 2,000 Vietnamese are injured each year by land mines and unexploded bombs left during the Vietnam War. An estimated 100,000 amputees live in Vietnam today, and there are more than 18 million amputees around the world, with more than 80 percent of those living in developing countries.

Eventually, Mercer will expand the program to Thailand and India. In February of 2008, the Clinton Global Initiative University – a program of the William J. Clinton Foundation – recognized Mercer's project "as an exemplary approach to addressing a specific global challenge" during the organization's annual conference in Austin, Texas. The University's Mercer On Mission project was one of only four "commitments" by universities around the country to be recognized by former President Bill Clinton during the conference's opening plenary session.