Alicia McGarty, COA

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"A certificate does not make you certified. Attitude, performance, commitment to self and team—these and a certificate make you certified." While the author of this maxim is unknown, it certainly rings true for many O&P professionals—including Alicia McGarty, COA. A high school science project was all it took for this Jersey Shore native to choose her career. Now, at just 20 years old, McGarty is workingfull time as an orthotic assistant and has already begun taking the necessary courses to become an orthotist.

1. How did you become interested in O&P?

I had to do a science project in high school and chose O&P for my subject. I then got in touch with Kathy Mascola, CO, BOCPO, LPO, for information regarding the field and how it benefits patients. Also, my father introduced me to his friend, John Caputo, CO, LO, the founder and CEO of Body In Motion Sports & Orthopaedics, Toms River, New Jersey. John let me stay for the day to learn about the company and what it does.

After speaking with Kathy, I thought this might be a good career choice because it was something different and interested me. The main reason why I chose O&P, however, is because I can help people in a way I never knew I could. It was the best decision I have made.

2. Who has motivated or inspired you in your life and/or professional pursuits?

My parents have always encouraged me to believe in myself. I've had a lot of help pursuing this career. My father helped me with contacts in the industry and courses. Kimberly Hertz, CFom, CMF, BOCO, gave me study materials. But my mentor would have to be my boss, John Caputo. He took me under his wing and helped me with my education and skills.

3. How has your career progressed?

I have been working for John since I was 17 years old; I started out cleaning the lab. Since then, I have helped out in the lab, organized the stockroom, worked the front desk, observed practitioners, and now I am working with patients. I was very lucky to have started that way—to learn the business from the bottom up—and be able to continue maturing as a person and in my career.

4. What are your professional goals?

To become certified as a mastectomy fitter and as apedorthist, and ultimately to be able to practice as an orthotist in New Jersey.

My goal when working with patients is to help them feel comfortable, educate them, and help them so they can help themselves and improve the quality of their lives. I treat the patient as a person and do not look at them as a sale.

5. What emerging trends or exciting advances do you see for your field?

New technology offers more choices, better outcomes, and more patient independence. In prosthetics, microprocessor-powered hands, knees, and feet have made huge advances for patients. In orthotics, the WalkAide, Innovative Neurotronics, has dramatically improved the lives of many people. Probably the most important change will be the influence of evidence-based outcomes—having to prove that the devices we fit quantitatively improve people's activity levels.