Partners step toward collaboration


Jenny Chien watches her daughter, ShenaLi Chien, demonstrate the motion analysis lab system at the GVSU Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences. Courtesy GVSU

Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital and Grand Valley State University are collaborating on classes using the motion analysis lab.

Located in the GVSU Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences, the lab is used to study human movement for those with walking disorders.

The lab uses 16 specialized cameras that each take 120 pictures per second, the same technology used for animated movie characters, video games and analyzing sports performance in Olympic training centers.

The computerized analysis creates a 3-D reconstruction of the patient’s movement, taking multiple measurements and generating pages of detailed graphs comparing them with normal gait patterns. This provides physicians and therapists with intricate roadmaps for treatment planning and evaluation.

For cerebral palsy patients who historically have had multiple surgeries based on physicians’ educated guesswork, this technology allows physicians to pinpoint the exact issues and complete necessary work with only one surgery, according to Mary Free Bed CEO Kent Riddle.

“The purpose of these studies is to guide surgeons and therapists on the best treatment plan. The goal is to minimize surgeries and to maximize function and independence,” he said.

“At Mary Free Bed, we call functional independence freedom. And you couple freedom with the hope that comes from the world’s best rehabilitation, and you understand our mission.”

With the collaboration, Mary Free Bed specialists conduct studies of patient walking patterns and serve as instructors to GVSU students and graduate fellows, allowing students to get experience with real patients. Mary Free Bed will sponsor a graduate fellow for up to 2,000 total hours per year. 

Riddle said this is one of the few centers of its type in the country. Patients come from Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Indiana and Canada. There have typically been about 200 per year, and he hopes that number will be able to rise with the collaboration.

ShenaLi Chien is a 10-year-old patient with cerebral palsy who recently moved from Florida with her family, partly for the pediatric care in Grand Rapids, including Mary Free Bed and the motion analysis lab.

“The clinicians here have been wonderful,” said Jenny Chien, ShenaLi’s mother. “They’ve really taken the time to get to know us and get to know our daughter.”

GVSU President Thomas J. Haas said strengthening the existing partnership with Mary Free Bed continues the university's commitment to providing relevant and timely learning opportunities for students.

“We’re trying to produce the talent needed to support this region,” Haas said. “And we’re investing strategically in health professions and nursing.

“I think it’s in our mission at Grand Valley to help shape those individuals who are going to be impactful in our communities, and Mary Free Bed is doing the same thing with their mission. Together, it’s going to make for a greater whole.”

The two organizations have a history of collaboration. Mary Free Bed serves as a clinical site for GVSU nursing, therapy and nonclinical students with annual in-kind instruction time topping $1 million. Mary Free Bed also has contributed to Raleigh J. Finkelstein Hall, GVSU’s new health sciences building.

“The growth continues,” Haas said.

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