From Bluffton to the borders of science fiction.
Story by Barry Kaufman
Consider your Heritage ticket for a moment… It’s more than just a keepsake plastic badge you’ll hang up in your man cave after the tournament is over. It’s more than just a way to see some of the world’s best golfers in the glorious surrounds of the island’s best cocktail party.
For some local students, your ticket is their shot at a better life. And that better life ripples outward, touching countless lives these students are able to improve.
Thanks in part to your ticket, Keven Walgamott was able to feel the delicate touch of a grape’s skin as he grasped it in his left hand made of plastic, metal, wires and circuits. He’s one of several patients testing out the Life Under Kinetic Evolution (LUKE) prosthetic hand, one that not only moves like the real thing, but lets amputees feel what they’re holding.
Bluffton’s Jacob George is a member of the University of Utah team pioneering this new frontier in medicine. His path to changing lives started with a scholarship from the Heritage Classic Foundation.
“It’s definitely in a league of its own,” said George, referring to the financial aid he received from the foundation toward his undergrad work at the University of Texas. “It opened those doors to allow me to go out of state. Nothing against the schools in South Carolina, but at least for what I was interested in … Texas had a good program.”
George first applied to the scholarship in 2012 when he was at Bluffton High School. He was awarded the Zimmerman Scholarship, which granted him $22,000 toward his studies.
“It didn’t hit me until recently, but it allowed me to do a lot more in my undergrad as far as free time,” George said. Because he didn’t have to work to pay for college, George was able to spend time in the lab. It helped cultivate his passion for advancing the frontiers of prosthetics. “I got to work in two different undergrad labs at Texas, and that set me down the path of wanting to do research and wanting to pursue a PhD.”
And today he and his team are changing lives.
“It’s really rewarding when patients start talking about how much it means to them and how much it means to future generations. A lot of the work we’re doing with them is not necessarily to benefit them, but to benefit generations to come,” George said. “It’s great to see their reactions and to see them thinking about the future; about people who won’t have to go through what they’ve gone through.”
And to think, it all started because somebody bought a ticket to a golf tournament.
The RBC Heritage helped Jacob George advance the frontiers of prosthetics. Watch video of him controlling a robotic hand.