A Good CAD-CAM Education Is Hard to Find

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By Judith Philips Otto

Most of the experts we interviewed agreed that learning about computer aided design and manufacturing (CAD-CAM) is easier said than done. Here's what some of our experts had to say:

Randy Alley, BSC, CP, CFT, FAAOP, president of biodesigns inc., Thousand Oaks, California, and chair of the American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists (the Academy) CAD/CAM Society
I think it's simply a lag that exists in a transition phase following the introduction of any new technology. When enough pressure is put upon these schools, either by the trends themselves or by the students attending, they're going to have to incorporate CAD-CAM into their teaching methods.

Mark Mazloff, vice president and chief engineer of BioSculptor, Hialeah, Florida
We're trying to go around to all the different schools and give them in depth training to stimulate interest and also to turn out a better-rounded practitioner who has been exposed to CAD so when they go into the workplace it's not foreign to them and they don't have such a big learning curve.

I still think there's a huge problem with a technology gap-not just relative to O&P but to the whole world. There's an amazing lack of technology training in everything you do. Where do you go to learn how to use a cell phone or a softphone? You just can't get that information. You have to learn it on your own. And that doesn't work well with CAD-CAM.

Alan Finnieston, CPO, president of BioSculptor
There is no one educational program that really offers a CAD-CAM education for new students or for existing prosthetists and orthotists, so we're looking at a real problem of educating people on how to use these systems. Our educational programs are really a product of the late 50s or early 60s. And although educational programs have to meet the standards of NCOPE [National Commission on Orthotic & Prosthetic Education], no standards have yet been created for CAD-CAM.

When we originally brought Endolite into the United States, we trained about 1,500 technicians and prosthetists in the use of Endolite. At that time, we had educational meetings at Hawk's Cay in the Florida Keys, and we're now considering sponsoring an international educational CAD-CAM meeting there in the spring of 2009.

Joshua S. Rolock, PhD, lead investigator on CAD/CAM research projects, Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois
The schools that instruct in prosthetics and orthotics have a set number of things that they have to cover within a very short timeframe. For that reason, and also because many of the instructors, I think, are not well-versed in CAD-CAM, CAD-CAM is really not being taught in the instructional program. Although companies that manufacture the system can provide instruction, if it's going to become a regular tool that's used in P&O, it should be taught in schools-the same way they teach cast modification, rectification, plastic forming, alignment, cosmetic work, and electronics in the schools.