Remembering Dudley Childress

Last week, we learned that Dudley Childress, PhD, a pioneer in rehabilitation engineering, passed away. You may or may not know his name, but if you use or know anyone who uses prosthetics or orthotics, or anyone who uses sip-and-puff technology, you can thank Dr. Childress and his colleagues for their innovations. R.J. Garrick, project director at the Northwestern University Prosthetics and Orthotics Center (NUPOC), sent us this remembrance:

For four decades, Dr. Childress was a key figure in rehabilitation engineering and an internationally recognized leader in the field of prosthetics and orthotics research.

He was one of the founders of myoelectric control in the United States, having fitted the first self-contained and self-suspended trans-radial myoelectric prosthesis in 1968. In the 1970’s, he and his team were the first to design and commercially introduce the “sip and puff” wheelchair controller for persons with high-level quadriplegia. In more recent years, Dr. Childress worked to develop theories of walking that have been applied to improve the gaits of persons with limb loss. Dr. Childress and his team originated the idea of foot roll-over shape to describe a fundamental objective of the able-bodied foot-ankle system during gait. Roll-over shape principles can be used to evaluate different types of prosthetic feet and better understand their function during walking, and have enabled the development of an innovative prosthetic foot-the Shape&Roll Foot-that is simple, yet highly functional, for use in low-income countries.

Dr. Childress’ achievements in the field of rehabilitation research have been acknowledged through numerous awards and honors. His contributions to prosthetic technologies were recognized by his election to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences in 1995. In 2002, Dr. Childress was the recipient of the Paul B. Magnuson Award from the Department of Veterans Affairs Rehabilitation Research and Development Service, the highest honor given by the Service. And in 2004, he received the Mentor Award from the Rehabilitation Engineering Society of North America in recognition of his years of outstanding mentorship to numerous students who were training to become researchers.

Dr. Childress mentored more than 50 graduate students at the MS and 20 PhD levels during his career. Many of his former students are now working as prosthetists and orthotists, rehabilitation research engineers, managers of gait analysis laboratories, physicians, orthopaedic surgeons, and professors at major universities with their own research programs. Through the careful, patient nurturing and attention invested in his students, Dr. Childress created a far-reaching and perpetual influence on the field of rehabilitation engineering research, particularly in the area of prosthetics and orthotics.
A memorial service is planned for Saturday, September 20, 2014 in Evanston, IL.
See more at Northwestern University, McCormick School of Engineering:

For information on memorial services and remembrances, please see the attached flyer: ServiceAnnouncement-1-rjg

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