Five Questions for Tony Wickman, RTPO

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Tony Wickman was an experienced technician and lab manager before he opened Freedom Fabrication Inc., Havana, Florida, in 1992, and that knowledge helped him turn his company into the fastest growing orthotic central fabrication facility in his home state. Wickman does it all, from product development and promotion to production and management, but he still finds time to serve on the continuing education committee of the American Board for Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics & Pedorthics (ABC). Married with young twin boys, Wickman likes to spend his free hours SCUBA diving in the caves around northern Florida.

1. Describe what your company does?

Freedom Fabrication Inc. is an orthotic central fabrication facility. We specialize in lower-extremity orthoses but offer a broad array of designs, from conventional metal to thermoplastics and composites.

2. What are your personal and/or professional goals?

My goal is simple and has never changed since I started in this business: to have as positive of an effect as possible on as many lives as I can, whether they are our customers, our end users, or our employees.

3. What emerging trends or exciting advances do you see for your field?

New materials are the source of most of the exciting changes I see coming. The hard part is identifying the early adopters, or the people who have the kind of vision we need to take a chance on these new materials. Then, of course, those same people have to be evangelists and spread the word to the rest of the profession as well as the providers. We have some great technology available, but if no one will pay for it, it won't get prescribed.

4. What do you see in the future for O&P technicians?

I will continue to work toward a more comprehensive level of technical certification. The Orthotic & Prosthetic Technological Association (OPTA) has done a good job disseminating technical information through live programming, but the next adventure will be to develop a more meaningful accreditation standard for technicians.

5. What advice would you give to young technicians about their role in the profession?

The occupation of orthotic or prosthetic technician is just that-an occupation. While it can be a step on the path to becoming a practitioner, the technician is in fact an integral part of the rehab team. If you choose to make a career as a technician, then study, learn, and realize how critical your job is to the end user. If it is just a job to you, then you will never mean much to the industry. But if you make it your passion, you can do anything you want to do, go anywhere you want to go, and make as much money as you want to make.