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Foot and Ankle Mechanics of Patients with Cerebral Palsy and Flatfoot

Summer 2023

Project Background

Foot and ankle function is a complex kinematic system that requires advanced medical imaging to evaluate the movement of each bone independent of skin motion. Furthermore, when patients present with foot deformities and pathologies, detailed investigation of what is causing foot function decline is critical for improved clinical care. Even further complications arise when patients have neuromuscular impairment such as cerebral palsy. The objective of this project is to evaluate foot and ankle function with biplane fluoroscopy (i.e. Video x-ray) to measure in vivo kinematics of patients with cerebral palsy following a foot reconstruction surgery. This research will guide surgeons on the long-term outcomes of foot reconstruction surgery in patients with cerebral palsy.

Student Role

Dr. Lenz is a Research Instructor in the Department of Orthopaedics. She is an expert in foot and ankle medical imaging and computational modeling. The undergraduate student on this project will be mentored directly by Dr. Lenz and work closely with the members of the Orthopaedic Research Laboratory Lenz Research Group. The undergraduate will be part of each portion of this study, from interacting with patients in our University Orthopaedic Center, to learning how to process image data, to working with Dr. Lenz's graduate student to develop and interpret foot and ankle motion. The student will be responsible for preparing image data files to process in vivo kinematics. The student will be encouraged to perform a literature review at the beginning of the summer to understand the scope, relevance and clinical motivation for the research to be completed. In Dr. Lenz's lab, undergraduate students have an excellent history of earning co-authorship on published manuscripts. Therefore, discussions and expectations for consideration as a co-author will be clearly outlined at the beginning of the summer semester. Students in Dr. Lenz's lab are also typically given the opportunity to shadow surgeons in the OR, clinic and participate in research meetings with the foot and ankle surgeon collaborators. Overall, it is Dr. Lenz's goal to provide a comprehensive research experience by providing many learning opportunities while setting tangible goals to complete the proposed research.

Student Learning Outcomes and Benefits

At the completion of the SPUR program, the student will have a comprehensive experience of conducting foot and ankle orthopaedic biomechanics research with a focus on patient interactions and evaluation of human movement. Students seeking a future career as an engineering graduate student (biomedical or mechanical) or professional clinical degree (MD, DO, PA, or PT) will gain valuable experiences to prepare them for the next step in their professional and academic careers. As previously mentioned, co-authorship on the project will be considered and clear expectations will be outlined. Furthermore, students wishing to pursue any of the above mentioned post-undergraduate career options will have resources and colleagues in the department to discuss options and seek additional mentorship from outside of the immediate Lenz Research Group.

Amy Lenz

Research Instructor

My goals as a research faculty are to: 1) create insightful curiosity for orthopaedic biomechanics research through my style of mentorship, 2) help students develop their own way to arrive at successful research accomplishments, 3) inspire students to push through the difficult frustrations of research and continue to ask manageable research questions. I am a nurturing mentor that does not want to micromanage but let creative exploration of research occur while providing clear expectations. As a mentor, I strive to pick up on the soft signs and body language when students are lost. I always encourage students to feel comfortable asking questions and highlight that all questions are excellent. I have a "Lenz Lab" slack account in which I encourage frequent networking within our research group (aka asking other students in the lab questions, as well as reaching out directly to me). We have weekly lab meetings, so that all students are aware of what other students are working on. This promotes collaborative work, sharing of knowledge and helpful troubleshooting.