IFESS – International Functional Electrical Stimulation Society

IFESS – International Functional Electrical Stimulation Society

What is the society’s main goal?

The goal of the International Functional Electrical Stimulation Society (IFESS) is to promote the awareness, knowledge, and understanding of both electrical stimulation technologies and their uses. The Society bridges research, application, and healthcare to enhance quality of life through advocacy, education, organization of international scientific meetings, and facilitation of inter-professional collaborations.

Is there a personal story behind the establishment of the society?

In the 1960’s a group of enthusiasts consisting of clinicians, scientists, and engineers around the world started researching and developing Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) devices and external skeletons. This work aimed to develop therapies to restore movement to those with motor deficits through the use of electrical stimulation and orthotics. Since 1963, the group regularly met at the External Control of Humans Extremities meetings in Dubrovnik and later on, at the Vienna International Workshop on FES.

The same group of engineers and clinicians decided that the research activities in Functional Electrical Stimulation needed to be better coordinated and in 1993 at the FES conference in Ljubljana, Slovenia, the concept of an international interdisciplinary society consisting of clinicians, scientists, and engineers to promote the development and use of FES was first conceived. By 1995, momentum had grown, the framework of that interdisciplinary society was put into play, and the International Functional Electrical Stimulation Society was founded at the 5th Vienna International Workshop on Functional Electrostimulation, in Vienna, Austria. The development of the Society benefited greatly from the activities of the FES Center in Cleveland and the NIH Neural Prosthesis program.

Why did your society decide to take part in the RehabWeek?

RehabWeek is a unique conference sitting at the convergence of rehabilitation robotics, industry, medicine, and engineering. It offers a unique opportunity for researchers in various disciplines to meet, share, discuss, and cross-pollinate their experiences, successes, and challenges as they work to improve the standard of care with new ideas and therapies to help persons with disabilities improve their outcome and quality of life. IFESS has participated in RehabWeek for the first time in 2017 and feels that participation at this broader venue will bring collaborative opportunities to its members and enrich the scientific program with contributions related to electrical stimulation.

The IFESS is also transitioning in status from a Non-Profit Corporation to an Association. 2019 will be the inaugural year as an Association and the IFESS meeting at the 2019 RehabWeek will mark the culmination of the launch of the Association.

Why is RehabWeek unique and why should people attend?

RehabWeek provides a unique opportunity to share knowledge and learn about the latest efforts in the broad field of neurorehabilitation.

What do you think will be the next big issue in the field? Why?

Patterned spinal cord stimulation for restoring cyclic leg movements and the development of the technologies around it to bring the technique out into clinical practice are research and development areas with great potential in the future.

Any success story you would like to share?

The IFESS webinar series was originally conceived to provide to the IFESS membership timely updates on the latest research into electrical stimulation technologies providing an accessible platform for discussion amongst engineers, clinicians, and academics during the pandemic. The series has become hugely successful with its content increasingly popular with a greater diversity of people beyond the IFESS membership to include students, clinicians, caregivers, and patients. The webinars have also led us to engage patient societies and other organisations where we have shared interests through joint collaborative online webinars and workshops. A particular aim now includes providing students, early-career professionals, and those with limited means a low-barrier entry point and platform to bring focus to their work, develop their international profiles, access information, and facilitate interactions with international experts in the field.