UNITE: Pioneers of Prosthetic Design

December 19, 2018 | | View Comments

Amazing advances are happening in the fields of prosthetics and bionics. Surgeons and prosthetic designers are working together to change lives. This panel discussion highlights pioneers of prosthetic and bionic innovation. Dr. Matthew Carty, Shriya Srinivasan, and Jim Ewing will discuss their roles in the field and tackle the big questions we have about the future of bionics. Panel moderated by Brian Heckathorn.

  • The rewards and challenges of being a pioneer, from the standpoint of the practitioner, designer, and patient. The extensive vetting process to find the right patient and the importance of building a relationship of trust.
  • The process of identifying a problem and going about solving that problem. With each leap forward we are pushing the limits for what it means to live with limb loss and/or limb difference. Are there limits? Can we truly recreate the human form?
  • What’s next for prosthetic, amputee, and bionic design? Where do robotics, artificial intelligence, and bionics fit into our future as a society?

Prepare for an exciting exchange of ideas with our diverse panel sponsored by BCBS, taking place on Thursday, January 17th. Enjoy a night of amazing conversation, drinks, light apps, and networking. Bring your questions and explore the world of prosthetic design with us!

Doors open at 6:30pm; Discussion begins at 7:00pm.

Moderator & Panelists

Moderator: Brian Heckathorn, CPO, Area Clinic Manager: Hangar Clinic

Brian is a certified prosthetist, orthotist with 18 years in the orthotics and prosthetics field.  Brian received his undergraduate degree from Albion College in Albion, MI and his graduate certificates in orthotics and prosthetics from Newington Certificate Program in Newington, CT. He is certified by the American Board in Orthotics and Prosthetics. Brian’s interests in the field of orthotics and prosthetics are diverse and specializes in lower extremity prosthetics, advanced orthotic technology, and cranial remolding.  He is often called in to consult on difficult cases throughout New England and beyond.

Brian currently serves as the Area Clinic Manager for the state of Massachusetts for Hanger Clinic with does patient care out of the South Easton, MA location. Additionally, he is a frequent guest lecturer and has advisory positions with various clinics and initiatives within Hanger Clinic.


Panelist: Matthew J. Carty, M.D.
Staff Surgeon: Brigham & Women’s Hospital Division of Plastic Surgery
Associate Professor of Surgery: Harvard Medical School
Research Scientist: MIT Center for Extreme Bionics

Matthew J. Carty, MD, is a Staff Surgeon in the BWH Division of Plastic Surgery, an Associate Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School and a Research Scientist in the Center for Extreme Bionics in the MIT Media Lab. He received his bachelor’s degree magna cum laude from Harvard College, and attended medical school at the Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons. He completed his surgical training in the Harvard Combined Plastic Surgery Residency Program, followed by an additional year of fellowship in hand and microvascular surgery at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. He joined the BWH faculty in 2009, and has since had a clinical focus in complex reconstructive surgery of the trunk and extremities. Dr. Carty is Co-Director of the BWH Microsurgical Breast Reconstruction Program, Director of the BWH Lower Extremity Transplant Program, and Director of Strategy and Innovation for the Stepping Strong Center for Trauma Innovation. His research interests are focused primarily on limb restoration, both through transplantation and complex reconstruction. He is the co-inventor of the agonist-antagonist myoneural interface (AMI), a biological construct to provide amputees with augmented volitional control of specially adapted prostheses and also restore proprioception, and has pioneered the clinical implementation of this construct in the novel Ewing Amputation procedure. His research endeavors are currently funded by DARPA and the Department of Defense.


Panelist: Shriya Srinivasan, Doctoral Candidate: Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology (HST).

Shriya is a PhD student in Medical Engineering and Medical Physics at the Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology program. Her current research in Dr. Hugh Herr’s Biomechatronics group at the MIT Media Lab, synthesizes her medical and engineering training to redesign the surgical paradigm for amputation. Using regenerative muscle grafts, Shriya has developed a method that enables improved neural interfacing with advanced biomechatronic devices as well as returns sensory feedback from prostheses. Notably, her methods can be applied to persons who have already undergone amputation, restoring lost function to severed nerves. Shriya’s work has been featured on NPR’s Science Friday, Harvard Medicine Magazine, Forbes and other notable outlets. She was also an invited TEDx speaker. More recently, she has been exploring closed-loop optogenetic stimulation systems to control paralyzed limbs.

Shriya was the former co-director of MIT Hacking Medicine and led initiatives that have educated individuals in design thinking principles, jumpstarted entrepreneurial efforts in low-resource settings, and nurtured healthcare innovation efforts.


Panelist: Jim Ewing, Ewing Patient #1

Jim Ewing, or sometimes referred to those close to him as “Human-Test-Subject” or “Cyborg”, is a dedicated climber who damaged his foot in a climbing accident. Always an adventurer, Ewing volunteered to be the very first person to undergo an entirely new form of amputation, developed by Dr. Carty and Hugh Herr, (that sews together parts of the muscle and tendons that used to be connected to the ankle to recreate the sensation of a moving joint).  This new and innovative amputation was a success and now named the Ewing Amputation. This breakthrough procedure has allowed Ewing to continue to climb and go on adventures even after his surgery.

UNITE Panel Series

UNITE is a quarterly event series showcasing the intersection of design and everything else. Each UNITE event brings together four thought leaders around a complex topic like entrepreneurship, healthcare, data visualization, and local manufacturing – and only one of the panelists is a designer. During the event, all four panelists bring a unique perspective to the conversation and interact with the audience to explore the topic. Following each discussion are drinks, networking, music, and fun. UNITE events are hosted and sponsored by various generous businesses of the Greater Boston area. If you are interested in hosting one of these events, please check out our host page here for more information.

Become a member to attend this event for free • Membership starts at just $5/month