New Online Tech Forum Takes Off

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L. Vincent Lebbad, RTP
L. Vincent Lebbad, RTP

Like a wildfire from a spark, a question posted August 27 to the oandp-l listserv has led to an enthusiastic new online technician forum. Founders of the forum (www.oandptech.com) are L. Vincent Lebbad, RTP, and Mark Joyce, CO.

The original post noted that Lebbad was interested in starting a grassroots technician-based forum. Says Lebbad, "For many years, I have felt that, as a technician, our profession provides very little access to education, technical information, fabrication standards, and just plain idea sharing."

"When I started in this field, the so-called technician' was nothing more than a practitioner's helper," Lebbad continues. "They were the people who sanded out the wood quad socket after the practitioner used his finely honed pull knives to carefully create an intimately fitting masterpiece. The technician was the person who cut out all the leather and strapping for braces, but never corrected the tracings or did the metal bending. That was the practitioner's responsibility."

Technicians of yesteryear never experienced other ways to fabricate unless they changed jobs and found that the new shop "never does it that way," Lebbad notes.

Mark Joyce, CO,  at the computer.
Mark Joyce, CO, at the computer.

Today's progressive labs understand that the professional technician is an integral component of the patient care team, says Lebbad. A good technician today is capable of component selection and understands material properties, orthotic/prosthetic design concepts, lab production costs, and inventory management.

However, groups and associations have lagged behind the evolution of the technician in the O&P industry, according to Lebbad. "Programs are few and far between. Workshops geared toward technical skills and fabrication sciences are pretty much nonexistent."

Within hours of his original post, Lebbad had received 43 responses, and within a week his inbox contained 216 replies essentially saying, "What can I do to help?"

Lebbad and Joyce Combine Ideas

One of the respondents was Mark Joyce, CO, who convinced Lebbad he could create a website that would be a setting "developed for us and by us," as Lebbad puts it.

Joyce started his O&P career when he was 13 years old by sweeping the floors of the shop his father ran for a local hospital. "By the time I was 15, I was cutting out and finishing all the metal and leatherwork for Williams flexion braces, chairbacks, and metal AFOs," Joyce recalls.

Joyce graduated from the Air Force's Orthotics Specialist course in 1981 and became a Registered Orthotic Technician while acquiring the college degree needed to qualify for certification by the American Board for Certification in Orthotics and Prosthetics (ABC).

Joyce has kept his love for fabrication. "I fully enjoy inventing new tools, components, device designs, and fabrication techniques." Being involved in management, Joyce found computer skills very helpful. "The computer has become as much a tool for me as my bending irons, rivet bar, and tape measure." His love of computers was a factor in his deciding to learn how to create websites.

He had been thinking about developing a website where technicians, practitioners, patients, physicians, and therapists could find information in a format to meet their needs when he saw Lebbad's post.

During its National Assembly in Chicago, Illinois, the American Orthotic and Prosthetic Association (AOPA) provided a conference room one morning for the new forum.

A group of technicians, along with representatives from the Western and Midwest Orthotic Prosthetic Association (WAMOPA), the American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists (AAOP), and ABC joined in a roundtable discussion about the new site.

The forum currently has over 200 registered members and hopes to develop regional education programs, among other goals. Says Joyce, "The technician forum is filling up with a nice variety of fabrication tips and discussions on education and professional issues."

For more information, visit www.oandptech.com