July 24, 2023

by Sebastian Studier, Press Publications

Century College and the Protez Foundation have formed a partnership together to provide a training for Ukrainian health care professionals in prosthetics July 24 - Aug. 11. The training will take place in the Century College orthotics and prosthetics lab and will be led by Century College orthotics and prosthetics expert faculty. Twenty Ukrainian health care professionals will participate in the intensive three-week training.

The Protez Foundation is a nonprofit organization that works towards providing care to Ukrainians who have lost limbs during the Russian invasion by giving them high-quality prosthetic care.

Eric Riedel, Dean of Health Sciences at Century, thinks that this partnership is a great opportunity for Century College to expand its outreach and impact in the world.

“I think this is a great opportunity to support the Protez Foundation and support those who have suffered from the war in Ukraine,” Riedel said. “It’s also an opportunity for us to provide the very best of our prosthetics training in a manner that will turn around and be applied very directly and immediately to those in need in Ukraine.”

According to Riedel, the health programs at Century College, including prosthetics and orthotics, have always had strong partnerships in the community. There are very few specialized prosthetic and orthotic programs across the country, so Century gets students from all over the country and even sometimes from other countries.

“Our partnerships are much more geographically spread,” Riedel said.

Roger Wagner is a professor of orthotics and prosthetics and Century who specializes in clinical instruction and will be one of the main instructors during the training. Wagner teaches in the prosthetic clinical applications program, which means that he teaches students how to both design and fabricate, but also how to fit patients with artificial limbs.

Wagner is a Century College alum and completed his training in the mid ’90s. Eleven years ago, he received a phone call from the college offering him a teaching position, and he has not looked back since.

“I have the greatest job in the world because I worked in the field for nearly 17 years in private practice where I provided direct patient care,” Wagner said. “Now I get to teach that, as my primary role here at the college.”

Century’s partnership with the Protez Foundation began to move forward during a visit earlier in the spring arranged by the White Bear Lake Rotary that allowed health care professionals from Ukraine to visit the extremely active orthotics and prosthetics program at Century College. The Ukrainian professionals got a chance to look at the facilities and learn a little bit about the process at Century.

Wagner helped and volunteered at the Protez Foundation prior to the partnership and had conversations with Yakov Gradinar, Co-Founder, Certified Prosthetist and Orthotist, and Chief Medical Officer of the Protez Foundation. Wagner and Gradinar continued to have conversations about a potential partnership, and according to Wagner, it just “grew and grew.”

“It started out as a conversation, and now has grown into a willingness to help others,” Wagner said.

Wagner is now in the process of writing and designing the curriculum for the training and views it as a labor of love.

Wagner thinks that those who work in the industry of prosthetics are inherently driven to help others. He searches for places where he and his colleagues can really make a difference.

“There’s only so much we can do here in Minnesota, so we’re trying to make the biggest difference,” Wagner said.

Riedel thinks that the partnership formed with the Protez Foundation falls perfectly in line with the mission statement of the college, which seeks to inspire, prepare and empower students to succeed in a changing world.

“We hope it’ll continue,” Riedel said. “It’s clearly in the college mission and the mission of the health programs to prepare students to adapt to a changing world, and this is a great example of it.”