Realizing Life’s Plan

Home > Articles > Realizing Life’s Plan
By Michael Carroll

At 11 a.m. on a not-so-average Thursday, I was sitting in the auditorium of the St. Petersburg College of Orthotics and Prosthetics (SPC), Florida, listening to a guest lecturer, when it dawned on me where I was and what I was doing. I have been preparing for a career in orthotics and prosthetics for most of my life, and I can't believe I'm getting academic credit to learn about it.

I have had a number of wonderful opportunities presented to me throughout my life. I'm blessed with an amazing family that cares for me and has put an untold amount of effort into raising me. I can't even count the number of weekends I went to the office with my dad to "help" him with one of his patients. During my summer vacations, while my mom and sister went to theme parks or checked out the local attractions, I followed my dad around conferences such as the Amputee Coalition of America (ACA) annual conference or the American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists (the Academy) Annual Meeting and Scientific Symposium. I learned about new and exciting products coming onto the market and met some incredible people along the way.

It was during an ACA annual conference that I was introduced to Douglas Smith, MD, professor of orthopedic surgery at the University of Washington, Seattle. Interestingly enough, he was the guest lecturer on that not-so-average Thursday.

My moment of realization came in the form of a flashback of sorts. In that moment, I was remembering all of those meetings and conferences, as well as some of Dr. Smith's past lectures that I've had the opportunity to attend, and I thought, "It's all coming together now." My first-semester classes are providing the foundation that I didn't have before. With that foundation, so much of what I had been exposed to throughout my life is suddenly becoming so clear.

Before I entered SPC's program, I knew a few, very basic things about gait analysis. Now that I have taken a class on gait analysis, my knowledge now extends past varus, valgus, vaulting, and whip. My professor took the time to teach and re-teach the important aspects of gait analysis and gait pathology. Something that originally shocked me about my first semester in SPC's O&P program was the fact that students are required to take three anatomy and physiology (A&P) classes. The program's prerequisites require students to have taken two A&P classes before entering the program, so I was wondering how much more I could learn from a third. Having just finished the A&P-for-O&P course, I can understand why it's required. I now have a much deeper knowledge of A&P, and the course also really helped further my critical thinking skills. A good example of the average exam question is, "If the head of the humerus is fractured, what nerve would suffer the most damage?"

Not only is my education providing me with the necessary foundation to "bring it all together," it has expanded my knowledge of the complexity of the O&P profession. Before now, I really hadn't thought anything about the legal aspects of the healthcare profession. I forgot that in our happy little sector, we're not exempt from lawsuits and subpoenas. In our clinical methods class, we were taught about the importance of very detailed, organized patient care notes.

Having now completed my only semester that didn't include any physical lab time, I'm really looking forward to the upcoming semester. I understand the importance of building a foundation of knowledge, but the prospect of having lab time is enticing. I was lucky enough to work as a technician for a while at Velocity Labs (now Evolution Industries), Orlando, Florida. Craig Mac- Kenzie, CP, RTP(c), the owner of the company, always told me, "Everyone has their own way of doing things. Sometimes their way is better than your way. You always have to be learning." I'm looking forward to learning more about the technical aspect and bringing together another important aspect of my upbringing with my O&P education.

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