Biomedical Engineering Research, Mercer On Mission Give the Gift of Mobility to Nearly 1,000 Vietnamese


Nearly 1,000 Vietnamese have received new prosthetic legs through a Mercer On Mission program led by biomedical engineering professor Dr. Ha Van Vo.

Dr. Vo, who immigrated to the U.S. from Vietnam as a teen in 1990, developed a high-quality, low cost prosthetic that is lightweight, inexpensive and has a universal socket that makes it easier to adjust in the field. His idea for the prosthetic, which is currently going through the U.S. patent process, came from seeing countless amputees struggle to have productive lives after losing limbs due to unexploded ordnance left over from the Vietnam War.

Just before Christmas 2013, Dr. Vo led a group that included Mercer President William D. Underwood, Dean of Chapel and University Minister Craig McMahan, Macon contractor and donor Chris R. Sheridan, and four Mercer students to Vietnam to explore opportunities to set up a manufacturing facility in the Southeast Asian country that would greatly expand production of the prosthetics. Over the 10 days they were in Vietnam they also fitted more than 100 patients with new prosthetics.

All told, more than 900 patients have been fitted with the low-cost, high-quality prosthetic since the project began in 2009. Dr. McMahan said that the group has been able to speed up the fitting process due to Dr. Vo’s efforts to revise and refine the prosthetic design to make it more functional, durable and easier to fit.  

Vietnam“Seeing patients, who have not walked for sometimes 10 or more years, walk out of our clinic in as little as two hours is an indescribable experience. This trip was truly a unique opportunity and is a testament to the commitment to service displayed by both the faculty and students of Mercer University, as well as the local community that continues to support our activities,” said Gary Wall, a senior global health major from Augusta and president of the Mercer Prosthetics and Orthotics Club, who made his third trip to Vietnam with Mercer On Mission in December 2013.  

The short-term goal of the project is to increase production to 2,000 prosthetics a year. The long-term goal is to get to a point where each of the estimated 100,000 amputees in the country can be fitted. Additionally, the University has had discussions with the United Nations and other international agencies about expanding this program into other countries.

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