Advancing Human Mobility: Insights from Jeff Denune’s Journey in Prosthetics and Orthotics

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Jeff Denune of the NuTech Institute is an industry veteran with more than 30 years of experience designing innovative devices for patients. A forerunner in the use of Computer-Aided Design (CAD) and 3D printing, Denune was featured on the Prosthetics and Orthotics Podcast that highlights his career-long efforts to improve human mobility through technological innovation and individualized patient care.

Denune’s entry into the O&P field was somewhat happenstance when he connected with two German mentors who immigrated to the U.S. after WWII. One of those mentors learned prosthetics while serving for the U.S. Army and since Denune was raised in a military family himself, they shared an instant connection. Denune said, “I was fortunate enough to have a mentor that took a liking to me and saw opportunity for me and talent and pushed me to go to school, pushed me to go to college, and that’s truly how I got into this.”

Embracing Technology in a Traditional Field

“From the very beginning of my career, I was pushing to bring technology into the world of prosthetic and orthotic care,” said Denune. As an early adopter of CAD for socket design in the mid-1990s – a process in which digital images are used to create custom-fitted devices – he was among a generation of clinicians committed to infiltrating the old-school, hands-on environment with computers. The move digitalized what had long been the realm of manual know-how, streamlining the design process for clinicians and optimizing fit for patients.

A longtime evangelist for 3D printing, Denune began to explore ways that this technology could enable new capabilities in prosthetic manufacturing by the end of the last decade, and was already using it to produce durable, individually tailored prosthetic sockets. However, his passion for digital technologies has never made him less respectful of the role of hands-on skills in O&P as a discipline; rather, he’s regarded digital technology as an enhancement to his hands-on skills, offering more precisely tailored, patient-specific treatments.

Patient-Centric Care as a Core Philosophy

Denune has long focused on the idea of patient-centric care, treating each patient like family. It has remained a central tenet of his professional philosophy. “Caring must be involved at the beginning,” he said. “You must learn about the patients’ special needs and continue to be directly in contact with the patient. Without that, the results will not be as good.” This approach applies to wear-testing and research, too. “We like to bring patients in,” Denune said, “and we let them get the product ready for market.”

Looking Ahead: The Future of O&P

Looking forward, Denune believes that O&P could benefit from more advanced technologies like artificial intelligence and robotics, but that these shouldn’t replace the techniques of direct contact and empathy critical to understanding and helping patients. Denune values both continued innovations coupled with ongoing compassion.

Denune believes that when individuals stay devoted to truly making a difference, every day can bring a breakthrough in technology or an improvement in the delivery of care. Patients’ needs are unique, and the trajectory of better human mobility will continue to be subjective, but forging ahead with new ideas and new technology will be paramount as the industry of prosthetics an orthotics continues to evolve.

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