Wednesday, June 13, 2012
by Luke Frazier, host of NEOtropolis
Right after law school I worked at an association that tested and certified orthotists and prosthetists (yeah, it was a mouthful). Since I grew up without knowing anyone who had an artificial limb, I was pretty clueless about what medical devices such as orthopedic braces and mechanical prosthetics looked like up close. While my association work was basically research and pushing paper, I was intermittently exposed to equipment and devices that felt and looked to me as if they were straight out of the 1970s' semi-cheesy TV action show “The Six Million Dollar Man.” But what the experience ended up being was the impetus for my ongoing fascination with medical technology and how it is rapidly changing all our lives, whether we have any bionic parts or not.
The reality of computer-assisted movement, wheelchairs that can do basically everything except fly and devices that regulate heartbeats is so far beyond my science-challenged intellect that it may as well be science fiction. But it’s not. I can’t begin to explain the mechanical engineering and profound precision of technology that mitigates paralysis or restores rhythm to essential bodily systems. And what I’m talking about is not surgical or chemical in nature; it’s something that’s built and put together according to specifications of individuals who look at a problem and figure out how to solve it on a physical basis with an object that’s part of a process that changes a bodily function and improves a life.
The ripple effect of the creation of medical devices is immeasurable in the sense of shattering expectations and allowing for answers to “what ifs.” Because when something written off as an immutable condition suddenly joins the ranks of the possible, we all reach a higher plateau of human potential.
This week on NEOtropolis we’re asking viewers what kind of medical research or medical technology you think has had the greatest impact in the last half century, and we’re asking because Northeast Ohio is heavily involved in all kinds of research into the actual production of medical marvels. It’s something we should be proud of here, and something that’s blowing the roof off what it means to live on planet Earth, even as we create space-age futures.