Jan Stokosa, CP: Starting from the Bottom To Change Lives
March 2003 Issue
|"The patient's success is always the ultimate goal" says Stokosa, shown with AK amputee Craig Harris.|
For nearly five decades Jan J. Stokosa, CP, has been touching people's lives with his work in prosthetics. A life of hard work, commitment, and a desire to help others has provided much joy for him, the people he works with, and many amputees and their families.
His career got an early start at age seven, when he began sweeping floors-prosthetic sockets were carved of wood then-at his practitioner father's office. He learned fabrication procedures, assisting his father during his adolescent and teen years. "I was about 10 or 11 when my father began schooling me in anatomy and physiology, testing me on the skeletal, muscular, and nervous systems after dinner," he recalls. By age 14, he was shadowing his father, assisting with patients who were willing to be "guinea pigs" for the aspiring assistant.
In 1967, Stokosa graduated from the first class of a pilot prosthetics program at Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois. He now practices in Okemos, Michigan, seeing patients from all over the world and specializing in amputees who cannot get comfortable wearing their prosthesis. His patients have ranged from six months to 94 years.
Knowledge Key to Practitioner Success
"Success is much more than just being a good technician," he asserts. "To be successful as an independent practitioner today, you need a thorough understanding of human anatomy, physiology, and biomechanics. This includes being knowledgeable in materials technology and being able to design the structure of the prosthesis to meet the particular needs of the patient."
Stokosa's dedication to his patients was showcased in the book Whole Again by William G. Barr and Lee Whipple. His accomplishments have been profiled in numerous newspaper and magazine articles, as well as on many television and radio stations throughout the country. But, "The patient's success is always the ultimate goal," Stokosa maintains.
Stokosa has taught and lectured at the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), Northwestern University, and others. He is a member of the American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists (AAOP) and has received the Academy's Distinguished Practitioner Award. He is a board member of the National Association for the Advancement of Orthotics & Prosthetics (NAAOP) and vice president of the Michigan Orthotic & Prosthetic Association. He also received the 1982 Outstanding Young Michigander award.
Working with Distributors...
Stokosa also believes today's practitioner must be a good businessman. To Stokosa that means finding and working with dependable suppliers, such as O & P distributor PEL Supply Company of Cleveland, Ohio-another family-owned independent business.
Stokosa's relationship with PEL Supply began in 1961 and continues to this day. "PEL touches the patients indirectly," he says. "We're always looking for the highest quality and durability in products, with delivery ASAP, and PEL consistently provides this."
He notes that recently some manufacturers have moved away from distributors, selling direct instead. But he prefers to stick with buying through his distributor of choice. "They know who we are," Stokosa says, "and they don't make their recommendations lightly." For example, when a liner manufacturer recently dropped distributors to sell direct, Stokosa says his PEL representatives recommended comparable quality products and more. "They provided training, conversion charts,
literature, and special pricing on alternative products. "Thanks to PEL, we're now using the Ohio Willow Wood Alpha Liner, and we're very successful with it," Stokosa says.
In fact, Stokosa wholeheartedly recommends the benefits of buying through a distributor for prosthetists starting a new practice. "They provide more than just materials, components, and equipment; they also provide good advice." He and his staff use this distributor connection to stay informed about new products and industry trends. "A distributor's customer service reps usually have firsthand knowledge of the industry and what's happening before it comes down to the practitioner level," Stokosa says.