Katherine Bomkamp, the West Virginia University student who developed a device to help amputees when she was only 16, has been asked to discuss her invention on a grand stage, becoming the youngest person ever invited to present to the Royal Society of Medicine’s Medical Innovations Summit.
Bomkamp, now 20 and a political science sophomore, will travel to London to deliver a speech Saturday at the Society’s 4th Medical Innovations Summit. The Society, a 24,000-member British charitable organization that provides medical education, invited Bomkamp to speak after officials read about her invention.
Katherine’s innovation is unusual and if successful, could have a huge impact for amputees across the world. The fact that she does not have a medical background, is a student and has dedicated so much time, energy and commitment to her innovation makes for compelling reasons to host her in London.
Royal Society of Medicine
Fascinated by her story of creating a prosthetic device called “The Pain Free Socket” – that aims to alleviate phantom pain in the world’s millions of amputees – a director at the Royal Society contacted her in December with an invitation to the summit. Her presentation will be filmed and posted to the Society’s website.
Bomkamp expects to speak to an audience of about 300 medical professionals for 25 minutes, then take part in a question-and-answer panel.
“I’m going to share the story behind my product and why it came about,” said Bomkamp, who wanted to reach out to amputees after seeing some of them suffer at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. She and her father, a U.S. Air Force veteran, frequently visited the Bethesda, Md.-based facility.
Paul Summerfield, the development director at the Royal Society of Medicine who reached out to Bomkamp, said he learned about the WVU student by reading The Observer, a British national newspaper that reprinted a New York Times article on her.
Her specific academic path is illustrative of the many ways that young people today can engage with the STEM fields. And the support and mentoring she is receiving at WVU demonstrates our commitment, at the highest levels, to the success and the future of all our students.
“Katherine’s innovation is unusual and if successful, could have a huge impact for amputees across the world,” Summerfield said. “The fact that she does not have a medical background, is a student and has dedicated so much time, energy and commitment to her innovation makes for compelling reasons to host her in London.”
Besides being the youngest person to ever present at the Royal Society of Medicine’s Medical Innovations Summit, she will also be the only college presenter at the upcoming event.
Provost Michele Wheatly, a London native, will accompany Bomkamp. Dr. Wheatly believes Bomkamp represents WVU’s initiative to promote women in the science, technology, engineering and math fields, otherwise known as STEM.
“Katherine’s ‘Pain Free Socket’ represents exactly the kind of result we can expect when young women have access to – and become excited about – work in the STEM fields,” said Wheatly, herself a STEM researcher. “She has developed something that will improve the quality of life for countless men and women worldwide.
“Moreover, her specific academic path is illustrative of the many ways that young people today can engage with the STEM fields. And the support and mentoring she is receiving at WVU demonstrates our commitment, at the highest levels, to the success and the future of all our students.”
Bomkamp said she hopes she can serve as a role model for other young women.
“There aren’t enough strong, young women in the STEM fields out there,” Bomkamp said. “Hopefully, the younger generation can look at my story for inspiration. I’m passionate about encouraging women in the science and technology fields.”
Wheatly added, “I’m excited to be in an audience of distinguished members of the British medical community while a young woman wearing Mountaineer colors delivers a presentation on the medical innovation she has developed.”
While in London, Wheatly also plans to meet with representatives from universities involved in partnerships with WVU to make those existing collaborations “even more fruitful.”
Bomkamp, a Waldorf, Md. native, was named one of Glamour magazine’s 21 Amazing Young Women in November and her innovation has received worldwide media coverage that also includes CNN and the BBC.
The Pain Free Socket incorporates thermal-bio feedback into prosthetics to eliminate phantom pain in amputees. Phantom pain is caused by the brain continuing to send signals and commands to the limb. Bomkamp’s device would help force the brain to focus on the heat produced through thermal-bio feedback, rather than sending signals to the nonexistent limb.
This marks the first trip overseas for Bomkamp, who hopes to meet and learn from some seasoned scientists and meet with friends who now study in England.
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