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University of Iowa News Release


Sept. 28, 2006

Ponseti Association Named For Clubfoot Treatment Pioneer

The Board of Regents, State of Iowa at its meeting Sept. 27 in Cedar Falls approved the naming of a recently formed international association based at the University of Iowa dedicated to advancing the work a UI faculty member and world-renowned pioneer in the treatment of clubfoot.

The Ponseti International Association for the Advancement of Clubfoot Treatment is named after Ignacio Ponseti, M.D., professor emeritus of orthopaedics and rehabilitation in the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine. The association's mission is to improve the treatment of children born with the crippling deformity through education, research and improved access to care.

"Dr. Ponseti's remarkable achievements and his dedication, energy and compassion have made a difference to countless children and their families," said Jean Robillard, M.D., dean of the UI Carver College of Medicine. "Through this association and the partnerships it will foster, our goal is to make Dr. Ponseti's clubfoot treatment available to any child, born anywhere in the world, with this condition."

Clubfoot is one of the most common birth defects, affecting approximately 150,000 children each year. It causes an infant's foot to turn inward and point downward. Left untreated, a child with clubfoot will have severe difficulty walking, a less mobile foot and possible psychological distress.

Ponseti, 92, developed in the 1950s a non-surgical treatment for clubfoot that involves gentle, manual manipulation of the child's foot and application of toe-to-groin plaster casts. The casts are changed weekly after a clinician manipulates softened foot ligaments to gradually achieve near-normal muscle and bone alignment.

Despite the success of the "Ponseti method," surgery remained the preferred treatment among orthopaedic specialists for decades. In recent years, however -- thanks in part to the educational efforts of Ponseti and his colleagues in the profession, as well as public advocacy by parents of successfully treated children -- the Ponseti method has become the mainstream treatment for clubfoot in North America. It also holds promise for 90 percent of children with clubfoot from underdeveloped regions of the world.

The Ponseti Association will take advantage of resources and interdisciplinary collaborations on campus and around the world to help restore normal function to children with clubfoot. These efforts will include:

--Educating physicians and other health care providers on the Ponseti method through Web-based resources; scholarships for physicians from underserved parts of the world to learn the method; and teaching programs in countries that have limited access to other sources.

--Educating parents of children with clubfoot through Web-based materials, seminars and other resources to enable parents to evaluate treatment options and have access to the best care.

--Providing better access to care, particularly in developing nations where medical materials are limited.

--Basic research that advances the understanding of the underlying genetic basis of clubfoot with the aim of finding better ways to prevent its development.

--Clinical research that improves the evaluation and treatment of clubfoot and leads to current education and training of physicians and health care providers.

Joseph Buckwalter, M.D., professor and head of the UI Department of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation, will oversee the Ponseti Association, in consultation with Robillard and a steering committee.

"Thanks to Dr. Ponseti's innovative research, children who would otherwise be crippled can live normal lives," Buckwalter said. "Through the work of the Ponseti Association, the University of owa will have an important role in making sure that children throughout the world will benefit from his work."

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Health Science Relations, 5143 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1178

CONTACT: Steve Maravetz, 319-335-8033,