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WSSU occupational therapy department explores 3D printing

Diego Herrera, a graduate student in the occupational therapy program, is researching 3D printing this summer with Assistant Professor Elizabeth Fain.

The Occupational Therapy Department at Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) is examining 3D printing through a new transformative curriculum project. 

Diego Herrera, a graduate student in the occupational therapy program, is researching this summer with Assistant Professor Elizabeth Fain, using an Ultimaker 3D printer that was purchased recently through a grant from Islamic Relief USA.

“There are huge implications for the use of 3D printing technology in occupational therapy practice,” Fain said. “This emerging technology can produce equipment, tools and prosthetics that are customizable and at a much lower cost. Therefore, exposing the next generation of OT practitioners to its potential application is crucial and is an emerging technology that is not being offered at many OT programs.” 

So far, Herrera and Fain have produced tools, such as pill bottle openers, eating utensils and button hooks. The equipment, which cost only about 25 cents each to print, will be offered for free to patients the program’s Occupational Therapy Clinic, based at the Community Care Center of Forsyth County, the largest and most comprehensive free clinic in North Carolina.

Fain says the long-term goal is to begin printing prosthetics that can be offered to uninsured residents through Helping Hands Organization and Community Care Clinic. Also, beginning either this fall or next spring, OT students enrolled in the Advanced Topics course will be assigned to create a 3D printed adaptive piece of equipment. 

WSSU offers the only master’s-level occupational therapy program in the Piedmont Triad. Glassdoor ranked occupational therapy no. 4 on its "50 Best Jobs in America for 2018" list. OT is part of WSSU's School of Health Sciences

About Winston-Salem State University
Winston-Salem State University fosters the creative thinking, analytical problem-solving, and depth of character needed to transform the world. Rooted in liberal education, WSSU’s curriculum prepares students to be thought leaders who have the skills and knowledge needed to develop innovative solutions to complex problems. Founded in 1892, WSSU is a historically Black constituent institution of the University of North Carolina with a rich tradition of contributing to the social, cultural, intellectual, and economic growth of North Carolina, the region and beyond. Guided by the motto, “Enter to Learn, Depart to Serve,” WSSU develops leaders who advance social justice by serving the world with compassion and commitment.

Tools such as pill bottle openers, eating utensils and button hooks are being produced as part of a 3D printer research project.

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