Las Vegas Hosts 94th Annual AOPA National Assembly

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By Betta Ferrendelli

Live Coverage by The O&P EDGE

Melissa Stockwell speaks during the opening ceremony.

Las Vegas, Nevada, was the destination of the 2011 American Orthotic & Prosthetic Association (AOPA) National Assembly, which provided O&P professionals with four days of exhibits; educational, technical, and manufacturers' workshops and sessions; and keynote speakers, as well as a chance for some to play golf or enjoy a wine-tasting fundraiser, while others were recognized for their longtime work and service to the profession.

More than 2,200 people registered for the annual event, a record, according to Russ Hornfisher, chairman of the National Assembly Planning Committee. More than $32,000 was raised during the wine auction to support the O&P Political Action Committee (PAC) and its legislative efforts, he said.

The event officially got under way on September 20 with a keynote address from Melissa Stockwell, CP. She captured the audience's attention with her story of courage and survival after becoming the first female veteran amputee of the Iraq War. Stockwell, a transfemoral amputee and 2008 Paralympian, described her journey from childhood to her decision to join the military as a teenager.

The audience listened as she explained the events of April 13, 2004, the day she was severely wounded after a roadside bomb exploded by her vehicle during a routine ride-along.

"It was supposed to be a nice, relaxing day, but it turned out not to be the case," said Stockwell, a Purple Heart and Bronze Star recipient. Though she lost her left leg, she credited and thanked a physician who was nearby and put a tourniquet on her leg immediately after the accident. "He saved my life," she said. Without the tourniquet, she would have bled to death.

Golfers enjoy a shot-gun tourney at Royal Links Golf Course.

Stockwell said she realized during her recovery that O&P was a career she wanted to pursue. She now lives in the Chicago, Illinois, area and works at the Sheck and Siress Orthotics, Prosthetics, Pedorthics, Chicago-UIC patient care facility.

Several O&P professionals were honored during the assembly for their years of work in the industry. W. Clint Snell, CPO, president of Snell's Orthotics-Prosthetics, based in Shreveport, Louisiana, earned the Legislative Advocacy Award for his lifetime work as an advocate for the O&P profession. Snell has lobbied on Capitol Hill and at the state level for O&P patient rights for many years. Snell said he appreciated the award and encouraged young O&P professionals in the audience not to let opportunities slip past them.

"What we do [for our patients] is unbelievable," Snell said. In order to capitalize on the future, young professionals need to take advantage of every opportunity, he said.

Snell and his family members were also on hand for a centennial celebration, complete with cake and champagne, for Snell Orthotics & Prosthetics. R.W. "Pop" Snell founded Snell's Limbs and Braces in 1911. What started as a small, independently owned limb and brace company with a single office has grown to include three individual Snell family companies, with 15 offices in four states and more than 100 employees.

Bionic Elvis sings to Snell family members.

A celebration in Las Vegas would not be complete without an Elvis impersonator, but this, by the way, was no ordinary Elvis. It was Bionic Elvis, also known as Ray Guillemette Jr., who lost his left leg in a motorcycle accident in July 2001. Bionic Elvis dazzled AOPA attendees as he sang and swiveled and pulled his pant leg up to reveal his prosthetic limb.

AOPA also presented lifetime achievement awards to Robert Arbogast, president of WillowWood, Mt. Sterling, Ohio; and Rudolf Becker, III, president and chief executive officer of Becker Orthopedic, Troy, Michigan. The men were honored for their many contributions to the O&P field.

The 95th annual AOPA National Assembly will be held next year in Boston, Massachusetts, September 6-9.