A, B, C, D, O, and P

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By Michael Carroll

I've been around prosthetics and orthotics my whole life. I've known what a prosthesis is since I was three, and I was five when I learned what an orthosis is. After spending 12 years of my early childhood and adolescent life running around the O&P lab in Oklahoma where my father worked, I was confident that I could fit a prosthesis and have anyone up and running in no time. An orthotic device couldn't be much harder, I assured myself. As I got older, however, reality kicked in, and I realized that many of my earlier perceptions weren't entirely true.

For now, the one thing I know for sure is that I am days away from beginning a new chapter in my life. I don't know how it will play out. For the last two years I have been studying biology and chemistry at the University of Central Florida (UCF), Orlando, which is about a 45-minute drive from my hometown-all the while wondering why I should be interested in electron affinity. This year, I am leaving the ever-so-friendly confines of home and moving out on my own to a small town two hours away. In less than a week, I will be entering the St. Petersburg College (SPC) College of Orthotics and Prosthetics. Students enter the program during their final two years of undergraduate study and graduate with a bachelor's degree in applied sciences in orthotics and prosthetics (BAS).

Why I Made the Change

While at a sporting event for individuals with limb deficiencies a little more than a year ago, I spotted quite a few SPC O&P students and eventually ran into the college's dean, Sam L. Phillips, PhD, CP, FAAOP. After talking with Dr. Phillips, I got really interested in the SPC O&P school, so we set up a meeting. Last summer, I drove to St. Petersburg College in the blistering Florida heat. Dr. Phillips gave me a tour of the Health Sciences Building and then showed me the new O&P building, which at the time was just cinderblocks.

I knew that I wanted to attend SPC because I wanted to be close to home, and-let's be honest-in-state tuition trumps out-of-state tuition any day. After I decided to apply to SPC, I met more SPC O&P students, all of whom had nothing but good things to say about the school. I also met more faculty and staff from the college of O&P as well as from the rest of the school, and they were all very helpful. The college has an inviting energy, which made me much more confident in my decision.

Jumping Right In

My first semester of classes at SPC include biomechanics, gait analysis and pathomechanics, human anatomy and physiology for O&P, clinical methods, and clinical rotations. Definitely not "light reading." I can already see myself coming home with the Library of Congress on my back. Maybe that's my motivation! By the time I've broken my back carrying all of my textbooks home, I'll be able to make an orthotic device to fix any ailment.

All joking aside, I am excited to finally be here. It's such an amazing time for this profession, and with the rate of technological advancement, it doesn't look like that will change any time soon. Thinking about all of the mind-boggling innovations in the past five to ten years makes it that much more exciting to think about what is to come.

Though I have been around O&P all of my life, I really don't know all that much about it. I know a few key terms, some of the products, and a bit about putting a leg together, but I have so much more to learn. And there is so much that I want to learn. I'm really excited to be starting this program and am looking forward to keeping you up to date over the next few years as I complete my education and residencies, and as I enter the profession as a practitioner.

Michael Carroll is a junior at St. Petersburg College (SPC) in Florida. He will be sharing his experiences with The O&P EDGE as he completes his bachelor's degree in orthotics and prosthetics.