Four Generations of Excellence
R. W. “Pop” Snell began his company, Snell’s
Limbs and Braces, back in 1911, there were
no rules or precedents to guide him as he first began
handcrafting each custom-fitted artificial limb. The
only guideline he utilized was his own belief that an
important need required him to begin a generations-long
voyage of discovery in a continuing search for better
and better solutions.
With no established norm to follow, Snell set his own
style, responding proactively and creatively. From those
early limbs fashioned of rawhide and red willow, through
the following war years and the wave of returning disabled
veterans in need of his services, the business prospered.
It was a business to which the family remained committed.
From the beginning, the Snells created the benchmark
for quality and service in the fields of prosthetics
the first standards tests were established in 1948,
Ed Snell was among the first wave of practitioners to
qualify as a Certified Prosthetist and Orthotist (CPO).
The company also strongly supported the Veterans’
Administration’s earliest efforts to encourage
progress and development by testing new components and
designs, and assessing and reporting the results of
research conducted in Snell’s own laboratory.
Current Snell Laboratory president Frank Snell,
CPO, FAAOP, a great-nephew of the original founder,
began working alongside his father at the rapidly-growing
company as early as age 14, developing the
skills required for an Orthotist/Prosthetist. When
he joined the company full-time in 1972 as
a graduate of Northwestern University, he brought with
him new marketing and management skills and methods
as well as new insights and goals.
His improvements included changing the company’s
name in 1976—to the current Snell Prosthetic
& Orthotic Laboratory. By the time Ed Snell retired
and his son assumed the company presidency in 1984,
more changes were under way. Foreseeing the coming climate
of empowerment for the disabled as reflected in such
legislation as the Americans with Disabilities Act,
Frank Snell oversaw the construction of the current
Little Rock office at 625 North University Avenue, rapidly
followed by the opening of satellite offices across
the state. In addition, Frank quickly determined that
CAD/CAM technology was worth investing in and thus became
the first independent prosthetics and orthotics facility
in Arkansas to implement computer aided design and manufacturing
in the late 1980’s.
family continues its mission with Frank Snell’s
daughter Melissa Snell joining the company in 1999,
bringing her own insights and fresh perspective to the
company’s growth pattern. Today, she is the vice
president of Business Development for the practice.
As well, son Brant Snell, RPT, upholds the family
tradition joining the company in 1997and currently
working alongside his father as a prosthetic technician.
Snell Laboratory has witnessed amazing progress in
the field of prosthetics since Pop Snell originally
fit the company's first patients with wood and rawhide
prosthetic limbs. The decades since have brought many
improvements through the use of lighter-weight thermosetting
resins with their superior strength and durability,
while more modern developments have relied on the use
of materials such as acrylics, thermoplastics and epoxy
resins. Today's hi-tech componentry and microprocessor
technologies continue to greatly improve the devices
that Snell fabricates.
Orthotics, too, has made dramatic strides during Snell
Laboratory’s nearly 100-year history. The heavy
metal support braces and orthoses once used to benefit
polio survivors and patients with muscular weaknesses
have metamorphosed into today’s light, strong
plastics. The leather used for orthotics originally
had to be hand-cut, water-soaked, shaped and adjusted
with a hammer over a 10- to 14-day period. Today’s
NASA-inspired plastic orthoses are shaped by wrapping
them around heat-molded therma-cork materials, in a
process that takes less than two days. In 2006,
Snell Laboratory became one of the first independent
facilities in the nation to undergo training in myo-orthotics
technology, with the Walk-Aide device. Today, the practice
is one of the leaders in the country in applying this
myo-orthotic device, when appropriate.
Thanks to our shared concern for quality and determined
pursuit of the best ways and means to serve our patients,
today our capabilities offer an amazing variety of possibilities
which enable the disabled to lead more active, mobile,
and independent lives.