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Houstonian turns tragedy into teachable moment

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It is a "first of its kind" in Houston: a new course of study focused on building and fitting prosthetic limbs.

Starting in June, Baylor College of Medicine will offer a Master's Program in Orthotics and Prosthetics. It will be the second such program in Texas and only the 12th in the nation.

One of the teachers is Earl Fogler, who has seen firsthand the evolution of artificial limbs.

Today, there are prosthetic legs with hydraulic knees whose motion is controlled by computer chips.

Or waterproof ones that can be used for swimming.

"It's a flat foot," explained Fogler while manipulating the prosthesis, "so they can walk barefoot on the beach or in the water, however they want to. The (adjustable) ankle allows them to tilt the foot so they can put a swim fin on it if they want to."

All this is a far cry from the wooden leg that was fitted onto Fogler himself, when he was seven.

You see, Earl Fogler lost his right leg in 1959 when a mentally unstable man set off a bomb on the playground of Houston's Poe Elementary. Six people were killed, including the bomber. Eighteen more were injured, including Fogler.

"I really don't remember a whole lot about it," Fogler told FOX 26, "because I was in shock after it happened."

But this was a tragedy that changed Earl Fogler's trajectory in life. His own experience using a prosthetic leg got him interested in pursuing a career in the field.

After 38 years working for Muilenburg Prosthetics in Houston, he retired and then joined the staff at Baylor College of Medicine.

There, he will be teaching the next generation of prosthetic clinicians. Teaching, the way Earl Fogler always has: by example.

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