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Environmental Factor, October 2012

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Sieber named to Amputee Coalition advisory committee

By Eddy Ball

Amputee Coalition logo
NIEHS biologist Stella Sieber

Sieber clearly understands that attitude is an important part of living with a disability. Instead of considering the accident that changed her life to be a tragedy, she says she feels she has been given a second chance to live. Sieber also credits NIEHS workplace accommodation with helping her to continue as a productive employee. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

NIEHS biologist Stella Sieber is one of three new members of the Amputee Coalition Scientific and Medical Advisory Committee (SciMAC). In a press release issued Aug. 24, the group announced that Sieber will serve as a consumer representative.

The Amputee Coalition, headquartered in Manassas, Va., is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to reaching out to and empowering people affected by limb loss to achieve their full potential through education, support, and advocacy, as well as to promote limb loss prevention (see text box). SciMAC serves as a resource to the organization, by contributing clinical and scientific expertise in the development, implementation, and evaluation of Coalition programs, research, and policy initiatives.

“It is my sincere hope that as part of the SciMAC we can improve the lives of amputees by informing, educating, supporting, and empowering them and their healthcare teams to lead healthy and productive lives,” Sieber was quoted as saying in the announcement of her selection.

Pursuing a rich life of work, recreation, and service

Following extensive injuries from an automobile accident in 2001, Sieber learned to adapt to the loss of both of her legs, through a comprehensive rehabilitation program, continuing her productive work life at NIEHS, pursuing her extracurricular interests, and reaching out to other amputees.

Sieber is a biological science laboratory technician in the NIEHS Laboratory of Toxicology and Pharmacology Microarray Group, which supports gene expression studies in NIEHS labs. She is a founding member of the steering committee of the NIEHS Assembly of Laboratory Staff, the only NIH group of its kind devoted exclusively to communicating the interests of laboratory staff in the hiring, promotion, and working conditions that impact their lives on a daily basis.

During her tenure at NIEHS, Sieber has received three Director’s Awards for her service to the Institute. She was also one of 16 members of the NIEHS family presented with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary's Award for Distinguished Service in 2006, as part of a group award for dedicated support of the health and safety of the Gulf Coast victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Outside of work, Sieber has kept up her interests in recreation and enjoying the outdoors, including participation in NIEHS Health and Fitness Week competitions. She is an Amputee Coalition-certified peer visitor trainer and a Promoting Amputee Life Skills trainer at Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy, as well as a support group leader of the Triangle Amputee Support Devils in Durham, N.C.

Also named to SciMAC were new members Troy Turner, a military and prosthetics research representative, and David Dunville, a consumer representative. Turner is the research portfolio manager for Advanced Prosthetics and Neural Engineering at the Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center for the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command. Dunville is an amputee support coordinator for H-Care Hurley/Binson’s Medical Equipment, Inc. and president of the Amputee Firefighters Association.

Coalition white paper addresses public health implications of limb loss

There is no question about the personal and financial burdens of limb loss on individuals, with healthcare costs for amputations alone, not counting prosthetics and rehabilitation therapy, reaching $9 billion annually. These are issues that have long been at the forefront of advocacy and educational efforts by the Amputee Coalition.

According to a Coalition report each year, approximately 185,000 Americans undergo amputation of a limb and about 1,000 children are born with a limb difference. A 2005 estimate concluded that nearly 1.9 million people in this country are living with the loss of a limb.

Now, with a new white paper, “Roadmap for Preventing Limb Loss in America,”  released Sept. 11, an expert task force convened by the Coalition in February 2012 looks at the public health and health disparities issues involved with limb loss and its causes.

As the paper makes clear, there is much room for action to prevent limb loss. “There are nearly 2 million people living with limb loss in the United States,” said Terrence Sheehan, M.D., medical director of Amputee Coalition and chief medical officer of the Adventist Rehabilitation Hospital of Maryland, in a Coalition press release “While not all limb loss is preventable, the leading causes of amputation — complications from diabetes and peripheral artery disease — can often be prevented through patient education, disease management, and regular foot screenings.”

The white paper also takes aim at the disproportionate burden experienced by African-Americans, Hispanic and Latino Americans, and Native Americans, whose amputation rate is nearly four times that of white Americans. “It is essential that we reach out to these racial and ethnic groups that experience a higher incidence of diabetes and peripheral artery disease,” Sheehan said. “Statistics show that 60 percent of the amputations resulting from diabetes-related complications could have been prevented and that roughly 85 percent of diabetes-related amputations are preceded by a foot ulcer.”

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