UI Engineering Alumnus Whitmore and Wife Give $1 Million to Advance Ponseti Method

Sunday, December 6, 2009

University of Iowa News Release

A $1 million gift to the University of Iowa Foundation from two UI graduates will enable the university to continue the pioneering work of the late Ignacio V. Ponseti, M.D., in countries around the world.

The gift, from Bob Whitmore and Molly Osterhaus Whitmore of Minneapolis, will provide funding for the Ponseti International Association (PIA) at the UI. The goal of PIA is to train health-care professionals in every nation to use the clubfoot treatment known as the Ponseti method. The low-cost, non-surgical and highly effective treatment was developed at the UI by Ponseti, a UI professor emeritus who died Oct. 18 at the age of 95.

"With this gift, PIA will be able to effectively spread the use of the Ponseti method to even the poorest countries in the world, offering hope of a normal life to millions of children born with clubfoot," said Stuart Weinstein, M.D., professor of orthopaedic surgery at the UI and holder of the Ignacio V. Ponseti Chair in Orthopaedics. "Dr. Ponseti would be pleased and humbled to see his life's work further expanded on a global scale, and we are very grateful for Bob and Molly Whitmore's generosity."

Molly Whitmore earned a bachelor's degree in nursing from the UI in 1984, and Bob Whitmore earned a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from the UI in 1986. The Whitmores said they were motivated to make the gift by PIA's potential to have a global impact.

"We're excited by the fact that the Ponseti method is a proven public-health solution that can dramatically improve lives all over the world," said Bob Whitmore, executive vice president and chief technology officer of Seagate Technology, LLC. "The focus now is to get the treatment globalized. We are very happy to help the UI and the Ponseti International Association carry out that mission."

Whitmore's father, William Whitmore, a retired orthopaedic surgeon in Davenport, Iowa, who earned a Bachelor of Arts degree and a medical degree from the UI in 1956, once studied under Ponseti. In recent years William Whitmore has participated in PIA-sponsored trips to Africa to train residents in the Ponseti method. A brother of Molly Whitmore, Matthew Osterhaus of Maquoketa, Iowa, was treated as a child with the Ponseti method; he went on to run for the UI cross-country track team while earning his degree in pharmacy from the UI (1980).

The Ponseti International Association was approved as a UI entity by the Board of Regents, State of Iowa, in September 2006. The Whitmores' gift provides funding for PIA to hire professional staff and meet other essential organizational needs. PIA is part of the UI Health Care International Office, which is under the umbrella of the office of the Vice President for Medical Affairs.

Approximately 150,000 to 200,000 children worldwide are born each year with clubfoot, a crippling deformity that can leave individuals severely disabled for life. An alternative to surgery, the Ponseti method uses gentle manipulation of the children's feet to correct the condition, leaving patients with full mobility. With proper training, the method can be administered by nurses, midwives, physical therapists and other health-care professionals, and can be performed in non-sterile environments, making it ideal for treating patients in developing countries. The World Health Organization, American Academy of Pediatrics and other organizations recognize the Ponseti method as the preferred treatment for clubfoot disease.

A celebration of life for clubfoot treatment pioneer Ignacio V. Ponseti, M.D., will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 6, in the Coral Ballroom at the Marriott Hotel and Conference Center in Coralville. The service is open to the campus community and public.

Visit the Ponseti International Association Web site at http://ponseti.info for more information.

The UI acknowledges the UI Foundation as the preferred channel for private contributions that benefit all areas of the university. For more information about the foundation, visit its web site at http://www.uifoundation.org.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Foundation, P.O. Box 4550, Iowa City, Iowa 52244-4550

MEDIA CONTACT: Christopher Collins, director of development; 319-335-3305 or 800-648-6973; christopher-collins@uiowa.edu