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Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals

Brain Initiative campaign exceeds $2 million

October 25, 2016

When the Madonna Foundation launched the Brain Initiative two years ago, the goal focused on providing access to the latest technology, innovation and expertise,
harnessing the brain’s ability to re-map itself after injury or illness. Generous Madonna friends enthusiastically responded with gifts totaling more than $2 million. The
following highlight those dollars at work to rebuild patients lives:


A wearable robot may sound like something from the distant future but donor support is bringing the Indego–a robotic exoskeleton–to Madonna later this fall. The Indego is similar to the Ekso GT™, which donors funded last year. Both devices allow patients, who are paralyzed below the waist, the ability to stand up and walk over ground. Chris Lee, vice president of Rehabilitation, reports that the Indego is a natural next step in the continuum of technology Madonna offers to help retrain the brain.

The Indego straps around the torso providing trunk control. Supports are strapped to the legs and extend from the hip to the knee and from the knee to the foot. The hip and knee joints are engaged by computer-controlled electric motors. Lee explains that the Indego is easier for patients and therapists to put on and take off, which maximizes therapy time. Unlike other exoskeletons, the Indego also can be worn while in a wheelchair. Once described as “a Segway with legs,” the patient wearing the Indego leans forward to move forward and leans back to stop or sit down.


Through the generosity of Robert and Cynthia Milligan, the Madonna Research Institute plans to host two student design competitions annually beginning in 2017. According to Dr. Judith Burnfield, director of Madonna’s Research Institute, the goal is to increase the quality and quantity of innovative and affordable rehabilitation engineering solutions that improve the independence, quality of life and health outcomes of rehabilitation patients while they are in the hospital and as they transition to their communities. The Milligan Prize will underwrite student awards in each contest as well as fund the supplies design teams will need to translate solutions into functional technology prototypes.


A generous anonymous donor has provided funding to further ignite efforts underway in the Rehab Engineering Center of Excellence in the Madonna Research Institute for three years. This funding will, in part, support the growing rehabilitation engineering team including Dr. Chase Pfeifer, assistant director of the Rehab Engineering Center.

Pfeifer and his team are collaborating with other Institute researchers to create novel solutions to address current patients’ needs and generate external grant funding for longer-term research and development efforts addressing the needs of rehabilitation patients at Madonna and across the country. Pfeifer received his doctorate degree in mechanical and materials engineering from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where he also teaches senior engineering design classes. Aiding his work at Madonna is on-site 3D printing capability made possible by a grant from the Goldwin Foundation.

According to Suzanne Sughroue, CFRE, director of Development, “Philanthropy is transforming rehabilitation at Madonna. The technological advances, innovative
therapy approaches and cutting-edge research at Madonna combine on a daily basis to change lives. And it’s all because our Madonna friends care so much about
addressing the needs of our adult and pediatric patients.”


Because of generous gifts from people like you the Madonna Foundation is able to support the programs and research that has helped thousands of children and adults with physical disabilities, empowering them to return to their homes and families. Make your donation today by visiting