Face to Face: Luke Stikeleather, CO
Luke Stikeleather, CO, began fabricating plaster molds and braces for himself before he knew the O&P profession even existed. As a teenager, he was diagnosed with monomelic amyotrophy, a neuromuscular disorder of the hands and arms. As a result, he learned to persevere through adversity. His experience as a patient inspired his eventual career choices—first as a social worker helping troubled teens and their families, and later as an orthotist.
1. How did you become interested in O&P?
As a teenager, I enjoyed woodworking and mechanical tinkering, which led to making adaptive devices to help me with my own disability. My first wrist-hand orthosis was made of Plexiglas baked in my kitchen oven. I eventually visited an orthotist who ignited my interest in the profession. Later, while attending Northwestern's O&P program, I attended a University of Chicago scoliosis clinic and developed a special interest in scoliosis. My passion and vision to help children with spine deformities grows stronger every day.
2. What has motivated or inspired you in your life and/or professional pursuits?
I believe that God orders the steps of my life, and my relationship with him influences everything I do. My parents were a major source of encouragement, instilling me with strong values, a good work ethic, a sense of responsibility, and the pursuit of excellence. My wife of 23 years, Donnah, has been of immeasurable strength, supporting us while I attended the orthotics program. Consistently my biggest fan, she compels me to stay the course during difficult times. While many people have impacted my career, I am particularly grateful to Tom Gavin, CO, who taught me so much about treating scoliosis and spine deformities.
3. How has your career progressed?
While still employed as a juvenile probation officer, I started working part-time as a technician. Following my orthotics certification in 1989, I managed a satellite office in Fairfax, Virginia, where we provided the full spectrum of orthotic care, and I had many pediatric and scoliosis patients. In 1997, Michael Malagari, CO, and I launched Orthotic Solutions. In 2004, we started Scoliosis Solutions. I am pleased to be an associate member of the Scoliosis Research Society (SRS) and the Society of Scoliosis Orthopedic and Research Treatment (SOSORT).
4. Please describe what your company does.
We are fortunate to have a dedicated team of practitioners and staff who provide a wide range of orthotic and prosthetic services. My personal practice at Scoliosis Solutions is exclusively devoted to treating scoliosis patients using a specialized treatment protocol that often achieves exceptional outcomes. This is, in large part, due to our meticulous attention to detail and use of custom TLSO designs based on Rigo-Cheneau principles. Serving patients with quality orthoses and providing emotional support to the families are my highest priorities.
5. What are your personal and/or professional goals?
I am trying to be a good husband and father to our two teenage daughters. I strive to strike a balance between family and juggling the demands of a busy clinical practice. Professionally, I focus on product improvement while maintaining compassionate service. We are currently gathering data for research studies to demonstrate the importance of quality bracing and competent service in producing quality results. In the future, I would like to develop a curriculum that can help other practitioners with their scoliosis treatment programs and patient care protocols. We continue to explore new methods to give our patients the best possible care.