Face to Face: Molly Cooper CPO, LPO
November 2011 Issue
Molly Cooper discovered O&P while in her high school library perusing an encyclopedia of careers. She reached for the middle book-P-and when she placed it on her desk, it opened to the page that described a career in prosthetics. She thought it sounded like a fun job, so she found a practice that would allow her to work as a volunteer and learn about the profession.
1. Who has motivated or inspired you in your professional pursuits?
Kirk Douglass, CPO, hired me when I was 18 years old and had no experience. He taught me the ins and outs of every part of a P&O practice. He took me with him on interesting cases, had his technicians teach me how to make orthoses and prostheses, and allowed me to work crazy hours while I attended the University of Washington (UW), Seattle, to earn my bachelor of science degree in P&O. Kirk and his technicians encouraged and helped me in every way they could.
Kaia Busch, CPO, and Deanna Fish, MS, CPO, FAAOP, have also been huge influences on my career. They showed me what a strong, smart, well-rounded female CPO looks and acts like. I'm thankful to have had the chance to work with and learn from them.
2. How has your career progressed?
After graduating from UW, I worked for a Louisville, Kentucky, practice from 2001-2006, during which time I completed my residencies, obtained my certifications, and saw patients in a variety of settings. I worked with amazing clinicians and technicians who were always willing to teach me their tricks and share their experience. From there, I answered an ad and stumbled into the position of director of clinical and technical services for SPS, Alpharetta, Georgia. During the remainder of 2006 through 2010, I traveled the United States teaching technical and clinical courses on the use and integration into practice of microprocessor knees and feet, multiple degrees of freedom prosthetic hands, and functional electrical stimulation [FES], to name a few.
While at SPS, I learned that my son has Angelman Syndrome. He began having seizures, trouble walking and eating, and was showing signs of developmental delay. I feel that I am a better practitioner because of experiencing "the other side" of healthcare. Having to go through the process of getting AFOs for your own kid is eye opening!
Because I needed to travel less and help at home with my son, I returned to clinical practice in my hometown in Washington. I now teach prosthetics at UW.
3. Please describe your research interests.
I'm interested in outcome measures research, especially measures that are easy to integrate into clinical practice, and traumatic brain injury [TBI] effects on prosthetic fitting and use. While research on high-tech gadgets is fun and good for the field in terms of awareness, what we really need is foundational research that we can build on. With technology changing so fast, we need to be able to justify our innovations by answering basic questions such as "What do we expect of our prostheses?" and "What do our patients expect or desire in a prosthesis?"
4. What are your professional goals?
To become the best instructor I can be and to be able to better explain my reasoning and ideas about prosthetic fitting and fabrication.
5. What would you say to other women who are thinking of pursuing O&P as a profession?
I think it's an excellent choice for women because of the potential for career and scheduling flexibility. I'm so excited to see the growing number of female graduates from P&O schools!