HISTORY | BACK
Since 1948, Muilenburg Prosthetics, Inc. (MPI) has been serving patients in Greater Houston and beyond. When founder Al Muilenburg first hung his shingle, the company was known as the Muilenburg Artificial Limb Company. Al and his wife, Loretta, an occupational therapist, lived in the back of the house on Hathaway Street while the business was run out of the front. Fabrication took place in the adjacent garage and sockets were dried in the kitchen oven. Back then, artificial limbs were largely made up of wood and leather but veterans from World War II and Korea sparked a growth in technology and the Muilenburg team grew with it.
Al became a certified prosthetist/orthotist (CPO) when practitioner education was just beginning. In 1948, the American Board for Certification in Orthotics & Prosthetics (ABC) was started to set minimum standards for the education of practitioners and to test their clinical knowledge. Al was the 16th practitioner in the first class to be nationally accredited in both orthotics and prosthetics by the ABC.
As the profession evolved, Al and his team of practitioners stayed current with the complex technology, improved materials, and refinements in fabrication techniques that constitute today’s varied selection of orthopedic and prosthetic devices.
Born May 13, 1920 in Edgerton, Minn., Al graduated with a bachelor's of business administration degree from the University of Minnesota in 1943, where he met Loretta, an art and music education major. They were married in August 1943 when Al, a naval officer, was on leave. While Al served in the military, Loretta completed studies in occupational therapy at Milwaukee-Downer College and then worked at army hospitals in Northern California.
It was at sea aboard the USS Sepulga, while on watch with a medical officer, Dr. James Woodruff, that Al became interested in prosthetics. Dr. Woodruff, a surgeon, said the returning amputees from the war could best be served by practitioners who were educated in prosthetics because, at the time, the profession was largely populated by amputees who didn't have any formal training and fit everyone just like they fit. Al considered this advice and after he was discharged from the Navy, he joined Minneapolis Artificial Limb Co. and continued with postgraduate studies in orthotics and prosthetics.
Al stayed with the Minneapolis Artificial Limb Co. for two years before he and Loretta traveled to Houston at the urging of a patient, Frank Billingsly, of Liberty. After spending several weeks in the area, Al and Loretta decided to call it home and established the practice.
To make himself known to physicians, Al made personal office visits. Loretta recalled that once, after cooling his heels in the waiting room, the nurse threw Al's business card in the waste basket, and said the message from the doctor was that he saved legs, he didn’t cut them off.
Although the early years were lean, Al built up the practice and became a provider to The Institute for Rehabilitation and Research (TIRR) and Shriners Hospital. In 1950, the facility was moved to its current location at 3900 LaBranch St. In 1998, the name was changed to Muilenburg Prosthetics, Inc.
Al made many contributions to his profession, advancing prosthetic education and practitioner standards through participation in professional organizations. Following WWII, he served on the National Research Council Committees on Prosthetics and Orthotics Research and Development, a U.S. government based group established to stimulate orthotic and prosthetic research, and improve patient care.
He was an instructor in the prosthetics program at UCLA and was a clinical associate professor in the Department of Physical Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. He also served as a prosthetics consultant at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and Shriners Hospital for Children - Houston.
With E. Bennett Wilson, executive director of the National Research Council on Prosthetics and Orthotics, Al wrote “A Manual for Above Knee Amputees/A Manual for Below the Knee Amputees.”
In 1968, he served as president of the American Orthotics and Prosthetic Association (AOPA). He is a past director of the ABC and a fellow of the International Society of Prosthetics and Orthotics (ISPO).
The American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists (AAOP) selected him for its Distinguished Practitioner Award in 1992, and in 1995 he received the Titus Ferguson Award, the Academy’s highest honor. In 1998, Al received a Lifetime Achievement award from AOPA. In June of 2000, the Texas Chapter of the American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists named its top student research award after him.
Through the years, Al stayed abreast of the field and the technology, attending seminars, conducting research, and teaching. He continued to attend his two favorite amputee clinics, TIRR and the Shriners Hospital for Children - Houston.
Al Muilenburg passed away in July 2005, but Loretta remains active in the company. Their son, Ted Muilenburg, CP, FAAOP, joined the company in 1978 and now serves as its president. Ted continues MPI’s commitment to quality, expert fitting, and fabrication. A complete range of prosthetic services is offered at MPI’s 10,000-square-foot facility.
MPI practitioners have earned advanced degrees in their chosen profession and constantly advance their skills through continuing education programs. They are skilled in microprocessor-controlled knees, myoelectric devices and energy storing components. The team stays current with the complex technology, improved materials and refinements in fabrication techniques that constitute today’s varied selection of orthopedic and prosthetic devices.
To help patients adjust to their new circumstances. MPI also has produced videos and handbooks. They take part in golf clinics, running clinics, and other sporting events to help patients learn that their lives aren’t over – just different.
MPI is proud of its record of service and the number of amputees they have helped to lead rich and productive lives. As the field continues to evolve, MPI will continue to evolve with it to help prosthetic patients live their lives to the fullest.