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I know you’re excited to get to the second part of Troy’s interview so I won’t be long.

If you haven’t checked out the first part of the interview, hop on over here to get caught up. The world of prosthetics has played an integral part in helping better the lives of many amputees. Troy is one of the good guys – leading cutting edge research into bettering the health of soliders through technology.

Without further ado, I give you part 2…

Q: Of what you are able to share with us, what sort of advancements do you see on the horizon for this field?

I see a time when people will not be able to tell the difference between someone who is using a prosthetic device, and someone using a biological limb. Think along the lines of the arm used by Del Spooner, the character played by Will Smith in the movie iRobot. I anticipate this same technology being use for lower limbs as well. It may sound strange now, but since the majority of amputations are a result of vascular disease, the use of prosthetic devices may become something of an elective procedure versus a life in a wheelchair or using a walker or cane.

Research we are currently funding includes robotic and powered ankles which will provide for significant improvement in what’s called the gait cycle, or walking. Powered and microcomputer processor controlled knees are already on the market, but are being made more rugged and capable through research funded through TATRC. This will allow people using these devices to utilize them in adverse & extreme environments such as water, mud, sand, etc. The majority of lower limb prosthetic devices are currently what I call “reactionary”. That is, they operate according to gravity and swing force. Prosthetics lower limbs do not currently operate according to user intent, that is, the joints and part of the limb move as the user wishes them to move, for example, rolling your ankle or crossing your legs without using your hands while sitting down. Through currently funded research, it is possible that a lower extremity prosthesis user may be able to control their device(s) exactly as someone controls their biological limbs: through impulses that travel from the brain through the nervous system to the muscles, or actuators.

Interestingly, as these devices become more advanced, and public awareness and attention is heightened, increasing numbers of users chose to not wear what is called a cosmesis, or cosmetic covering that helps disguise their device. Many people are wearing their devices in the open, as if to say “this is me, this is part of who I am.” And I think that’s a good thing. However, for someone who chooses to wear a cosmetic covering, there are numerous ways that covering can look. It can be made to look so much like the limb that was lost that it’s amazing. The wearer can have a tattoo painted on, or they can have the covering made and painted in any design an artist is capable of creating.

Q: How do you feel about the barring of double amputee Oscar Pistorius, from the upcoming Olympic Games?

I can’t speak to any specifics of the circumstances surrounding Mr. Pistorius’ situation, but I do think that the fact that he is capable of being competitive at such a high level is a testament to the prosthetics and orthotics technology being developed for those needing it, but also the spirit and never-quit attitude of many people who face significant daily challenges such as these.

Q: Any other comments?

I’ve yet to meet a military amputee that has ever claimed to be a hero, or anything other than just a soldier, sailor, airman or Marine doing their job.

Most people that do “heroic” things don’t think of them as heroic, whatever the “thing” was, they’ll say that they were just doing what needed to be done, or what they were told to do, or what anyone else would have done. But a hero is also someone that others may look up to for motivation, or as an example.

Hero -noun

1. a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities.

2. a person who, in the opinion of others, has heroic qualities or has performed a heroic act.

Some pro athletes will tell you that they don’t want to be role-models or hero’s, but those people have never understood that it’s not up to them – it’s up to the people that look up to them. Fortunately, most professional athletes are thankful for their gifts and realize how incredibly fortunate they are to be able to “play games” at such a high level. They are great with their fans, and live quiet, mature, responsible lives, and are great role models.

One thing the definition above does not say is that the best heroes are the ones that are humble, that do not seek acknowledgement or attention for themselves of their deeds. Today’s military members show courage and ability everyday. They do what they’re told to do, which requires bravery and nobility – dignity and integrity. Do they act up, get rowdy, cause problems and get in trouble? Of course they do, they’re not perfect. But they are heroes nevertheless, and luckily it’s a label that can’t be self-applied. Those who do their duty with courage, ability, bravery, nobility, and without running, are heroes.

What great insight into what it really means to serve. It has been an absolute pleasure interviewing Troy and getting thoughts on his work and the philosophy behind it. Although peace time is the ideal, with people like Troy helping our soldiers, we can feel a little better during war time. Don’t forget, if you want a regular look inside the mind of Troy, follow him on Twitter!

Do you know someone that is doing great things combining health and technology? Please let me know by sending me an email at mindofandre@gmail.com – I would love to hear about it!

Hi folks! I am super excited to bring to you someone who caught my interest because of his work in a field that exclusively focuses on merging cutting edge technology and the health/well-being of the human body. Troy currently manages the Advanced Prosthetics and Human Performance research portfolio at the Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center (TATRC) of the U. S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command (USMRMC), at Fort Detrick, Maryland. Additionally, he serves as the Deputy Chief of the Knowledge Engineering Group, including TATRC’s Robotic Combat Casualty Extraction and Evacuation program.

This interview contains questions related to his job, his thoughts on the prosthetic industry and what the future may hold for soldiers and civilians alike in the biotechnology field.

Q: What attracted you to the area of prosthetics and particularly for the military?

I worked in the telecommunications field for several years, and at that time had a position with Nortel Networks as an operations manager over the Mid-Atlantic & Great Lakes regions. It was a great job, and I really enjoyed working at Nortel, but it was not long lived as Nortel laid off about 65,000 people in the Spring of 2001. In the Fall of 2001 I was approached by Dr. Gary Gilbert with an invitation to visit with him at the Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center (TATRC) at Fort Detrick, in Frederick, MD. At that time I really only knew Gary as another of the hockey dad’s on the mite-age travel ice hockey team that I managed, and on which both of ours sons played. Though I had served in the military from 1985 to 1989, it was in the telecommunications field, and I knew nothing about the medical research field.

The week after September, 11, 2001, I visited with Gary at TATRC. During the visit, I learned about TATRC and their mission, hearing about many of the very cool things TATRC was managing. At the end of the meeting, Gary offered me a job at TATRC. Although I had never worked in any field related to medical research, Gary watched me manage our sons’ hockey team, and decided that if I could keep all those parents herded and headed in the same direction, that I had at least a good bit of the skill needed to succeed in the TATRC world.

A couple of years later I was asked to become involved in standing up, or starting, or new area of research of TATRC in the area of Advanced Prosthetics & Rehabilitation. The way TATRC operates and takes projects from the proposal stage to an awarded project is complicated, creative, and can take a long time to understand. However, the way we needed to do some things in this research portfolio required us to step outside even TATRC’s normal “sandbox.” Many times we were told “you can’t do it that way”, and then we’d go ahead and do it anyway, and it did work. We were working for U.S. military members who had lost limbs in Iraq & Afghanistan, and getting hung up in red tape and bureaucracy was simply not an option.

So that’s how I became involved, but the men and women for whom we work, and the help we’re able to bring to them is what keeps me involved. You will never meet people more motivated and more determined to never quit than those soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marine’s dealing with limb loss. Sure they have bad days along with the good days, but you can’t meet or speak with them and not leave feeling upbeat.

Q: It seems as though the division in which you work uses cutting edge technology on a daily basis for the various arms of the US Military – do you see the technology being used for civilians any time soon?

TATRC doesn’t actually “use” cutting edge medical technology. TATRC awards and manages congressionally appropriated funding intended for advanced technology medical research projects. TATRC manages research for the DoD ranging from Advanced Prosthetics & Human Performance, to Medical Robotics, to Modeling & Simulation, Neuroscience, Tissue Regeneration, and so forth. Much of this can be seen on our website at www.tatrc.org. Information specific to the Advanced Prosthetics and Human Performance portfolio is at http://www.tatrc.org/prosthetics.

The technology being developed through the research projects is being developed not just by leading research universities and institutes, but also by small businesses. In addition to developing advanced and next generation technologies, a primary goal of ours and the performing organization is for the research to result in something that can be commercialized, or provided as an input to another project which will benefit not just members of the military, but civilians around the world. In this field of research, the science and technology crosses the military/civilian boundary so readily since we’re not dealing with an area of research that is specific to the military. I will say though that while this work easily crosses into the civilian realm, some of the technology being developed her will require greater levels of insurance reimbursement before the majority of civilian users will be able to take advantage of them.

Q: What are the most important issues that are being addressed in prosthetics research for military use? Are these in any way similar to issues facing civilian use?

Military-specific issues being addressed in advanced prosthetics research are the use of the device in extreme environments. This means not just the durability of the device, but also the ability of the device to respond, or even predict the activity of the user and be able to adapt instantaneously to that activity. The great thing is that military specific activities are virtually identical to extreme civilian activities. This includes activities such as running, jumping, swimming, diving, snow skiing, water skiing, bicycling, rock climbing, hiking, carrying very heavy loads, driving vehicles of all configurations, and not having to recharge the device every four hours. Providing prosthetic components that can enable this level of activity will allow young amputees to participate and compete, but will also bring capabilities to devices used by less active individuals that will improve their quality of daily living as well as give them back the opportunity to become more active as well.

Q: What is a typical work day like for you?

A typical day? I used to think there was such a thing, now I know there isn’t. There is a constant process of dealing with research proposals. We are always working with researchers in funded projects, helping them improve their studies and development efforts, as well as helping them network with other researchers that may be able to add to the effort. Part of this includes engaging on a national and even international level with relevant associations, academies, and conferences, in order to learn and know the field, what’s hot, what’s not, what the people that work in the trenches of the field think, and most importantly the needs of the users, those who will hopefully benefit from the work research.

…stay tuned for Troy’s thoughts on future advancements and more! Part 2 coming later this week.

(For those who want to peer inside the mind of Troy on a regular basis, you can follow him on Twitter!)

I’m sure many of you have already come across this video but I thought I would put it up here just in case.

Common Craft has become well known for their videos that easily explain technological concepts. Twitter has just been added to their list. Hope you all can enjoy and now fully understand why I love this awesome application.

Did you remember to grab your morning cup of coffee this morning at the local shop? Have to get up and moving!

Does the sound of a Red Bull can being snapped open spark your senses and dilate your pupils? This is all I need to get through the rest of the afternoon!

Noticed it was approaching 1 a.m. and wanted to just read that last RSS feed? This won’t take long, besides it’s [insert popular blog here]!

Do these instances sound familiar? Was the Sandman composing a lullaby for you when these thoughts began to hit? Well don’t worry, you’re in good company. In a recent article on CNN.com, a survey from the National Sleep Foundation was taken that pointed out one-third of workers catch shut-eye on the job. Wow. First of all, I can only remember one time in my professional career where I was so tired that I actually contemplated falling asleep at my desk. Secondly, that has to be detrimental to your job security!

Not Enough Hours in the Day?

Let’s be honest, when was the last time you felt as though you had enough time to do the things you wanted to do in one day? It seems that from the moment the alarm jarrs us back to reality and we realize another day has begun, we grumble that the morning came too quickly. Whether you have a 9 to 5 (or more commonly an 8 to 6), living the life of a freelancer or toiling as an entrepreneur, work takes up a huge part of our day. The survey points out the fact that work days have gotten longer which means less “you time”.

Also, we are in a time now where work is all over the place. Even if we have a day job, alot of people are doing the slash career thing – working on projects after (or sometimes before) the regular job. Of course you’re sleepy but you have that side consulting gig that you are passionate about and need to come through on so that you can develop your credibility! If only you had one or two more hours, you could get it all done and get some rest…right?

Information Overload

The Information Era. The Digital Age. The Wired Generation. Yep, that’s what we’re living in and who we are and we love it don’t we? Answers to questions a mouse click away, family members around the world can meet up in cyberspace, blogs to read, comments to write – it almost seems like too much! But we tell ourselves we can handle it. As a matter of fact, I really think that in some cases, we feel like it’s a badge of honor that we stayed up the night before til 2 a.m. cranking out a blog post or clearing our feed reader. When was the last time someone told you something to that effect and you furrowed your brow and scolded them for not getting enough sleep? I rest my case.

We have so many electronic devices at our finger tips designed for “increased productivity” e.g. Blackberries, PDA/Smartphones, and laptops that are ultra-portable (yes, even in the bedroom – *tear*). But what about increased sleep production? Ever been startled from sleep by your Blackberry alerting you that someone sent an email at 2:45 a.m.? The fact of that matter is that it’s amazingly easy to get caught up in surfing the web, checking our electronic devices and even watching DVR’d television.

What’s the Problem?

From a recent USA Today article:

For years, sleep researchers have been preaching the dangers of lost sleep: People who are fatigued can’t pay attention to routine tasks, have trouble learning and are prone to a laundry list of health problems, from depression to high blood pressure.

New research suggests an added risk to losing sleep day after day: Humans and animals that have chronic sleep deprivation might reach a point at which the very ability to catch up on lost sleep is damaged, says Fred Turek, a sleep researcher at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.

Basically, if you continue to get little amounts of sleep each night (sleep debt), your ability to make up that lost sleep is hampered.

By the end of two weeks, the people who had lost sleep at night said they no longer felt tired during the day. But test scores revealed a different story, according to the 2003 study published in the journal Sleep. The sleep-deprived group had trouble paying attention, had slower reaction times and developed impairments in memory, Dinges says.

The article also shows a few tips on how to NOT lose your precious sleep:

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine, the National Sleep Foundation and other sleep experts offer these tips on getting a good night’s sleep:

  1. Do not stay up late to talk on the phone or surf the Internet.
  2. Keep computers and TVs out of the bedroom.
  3. Stick with a regular bedtime.
  4. Avoid food or drinks with caffeine, especially at night. Such stimulants can keep you awake.
  5. Don’t stay up all night to cram for a big work project or to finish homework if you’re in school.
  6. Avoid vigorous exercise within a few hours of bedtime.

The Ultimate Increased Productivity

This is a problem folks. I was talking to a friend today about how I’ve been keeping an eye on her because of her ultra busy schedule and lack of adequate rest. I especially think that those of us who might be so overbooked with school, work, side work and trying to maintain a social life, will think that “after this is done, then I can sleep”, are just fooling ourselves. One thing I’ve realized is that life never gets less complicated as you grow older. It just doesn’t. YOU have to make the time for yourself to recharge and refresh. The technology doesn’t have to sleep, but you do. That’s my take on “increased productivity”.

Continuing on my interests in online communities, my friend Leslie gave me a heads up on a new destination. KnowMeNow seems to resemble a cross between MySpace, Facebook and a good ole neighborhood barbecue.

Looking around the site and figuring out each facet, really got me thinking about what we identify ourselves with in society. When was the last time you asked one of your friends what their favorite food or movie was? Or even what they would consider to be their biggest accomplishment? KnowMeNow seems to provide the opportunity not only to just connect with people but to really get a glimpse as to who they are. I even took the opportunity to include one of my favorite posts onto my journal page on the website.

And what would a good community be like without a good discussion? Over here there is a conversation started about what new media means to you. I think it’s pretty obvious where I stand on that one. We can have all the geeky tools and new innovations on the Web that we want, but more and more people are realizing that it’s near pointless if it doesn’t have a purpose of getting “real life” things done or making our lives more fulfilled. The social web is now a place for ideas to get put out there and collaboration to take place. The technology doesn’t do it for us, which is why people interaction is the thing I enjoy focusing on.

Now that I’m a part of the Web, there is no looking back!

Ever feel like this guy when trying to inform a friend or loved one about some pertinent information to better their lives?

Technology has definitely opened doors to new ways of spreading worthwhile information. I actually email my friends all the time about new innovations in health or ways to live a more robust life. But with all the information that flashes before your eyes in the way of blogs, emails, RSS feeds and websites…don’t forget that good information also comes from those who are right next to you!

And now back to creating a PowerPoint presentation for my family on making new year resolutions for better health last beyond Valentine’s Day…

9533607_31bdd3b4c2_o1.jpg

Photo by Eski on Flickr

What I mean by that is, has the topic of health and making improvements in health, lost the race in getting our attention?

As I was sitting on the Metro, escaping the frostiness of the evening, I whipped out the latest Time magazine issue that caught my attention. This was mainly due to the fact that it had a giant iPhone on the cover with pretty colors! So the flagship portion of the issue highlighted the best inventions of 2007, with the iPhone being the touted as the Invention of the Year. Now of course the sight of gadgets and electronics puts me in a mood akin to that of a child at Toys ‘R Us, but then I took a deeper look at the article, after flipping through all the eye candy of inventions.

On the right side of the pages that contained this article, there was a list of categories in which inventions were highlighted. What I noticed was that the category of “health” was third, sixth, last…that’s right last. Now maybe I’m reading too much into the situation but you have to wonder how the categories were ordered. How does “architecture” come before health….architecture?

If we actually take a step back and look at all the cool toys and gadgets that come out, all the computer related bling, the big screen TVs and the Mars Rover – how well does health rank in our list of importance? One of the most interesting inventions in the category is a highlight on prosthetic technology. It just felt like there was something missing for personal health gadgets or software. I mean, even though I haven’t taken a hard look at it, Microsoft’s HealthVault might have been a good candidate!

Bottomline is, I really feel people may have drooled and cackled with futuristic glee at the other categories but skipped past the health section or at the very least, looked at a giant metal foot, yawned and continued through to the next section. I’m not saying that there needs to be a sexiness factor to health but I’m feeling that if it’s not a revolutionary weight loss pill – personal health comes in last place and people have already left the stadium.

For more information on the Best Inventions of the Year, check out the November 12th issue of Time

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