Matthew Schenk, CPO
What does O&P have in common with bears, owls, and elk? The answer is Matthew Schenk, who works at the Wheat Ridge, Colorado, Hanger Clinic. He traded a career as a wildlife biologist, in which he was involved in research on black bears in California; spotted owls in New Mexico; and waterfowl, grouse, and elk in Colorado, for a career in O&P.
1. How did you become interested in O&P?
As rewarding as my career as a wildlife biologist was, I felt the need for a change. My long-held interest in human anatomy and physiology led me toward O&P. I was intrigued by the hands-on involvement with the patient and the design and fabrication of prostheses and orthoses. An extended family member, Darryl Womack, CO, (now retired) was my first contact and information source in the field. He gave me a firsthand look at the profession and what to expect from it. From that point, it was clear to me that O&P was going to be a great fit.
2. Who or what has motivated or inspired you in your professional pursuits?
My mentors, Womack and Terry Noffsinger, CP, are seasoned practitioners who find joy in their work and truly care about their patients. Their dedication to their work and colleagues rubs off on everyone around them, making for a great work environment. They are good at what they do and are willing to share their techniques and successes with others so that they, too, will succeed. Improving the quality of life for my patients keeps me going day to day. Their stories of survival, achievement, and overcoming hardship motivate me and make me want to work hard on their behalf. It is exhilarating to watch someone walk again after an amputation or debilitating injury.
3. How has your career progressed?
My clinical skills and knowledge evolve and progress from one patient to the next. It is possible to learn something new nearly every day from your patients, whether it's a new technique or a basic understanding of the human body and how pathology can affect it.
4. What are your professional goals?
To continually improve my skills as a clinician. This includes staying current on research, learning about cutting-edge technological advancements, and recognizing the needs and goals of my patients. I want to be trusted and respected by my peers and patients.
5. Please describe your approach to patient care.
My top priority with my patients is to perform a thorough evaluation, listen to their needs, and customize their particular device to those needs. Communication is critical. A good evaluation will give crucial information needed for the design, but if you don't pay attention to the clues your patient is giving you, the outcome will not be successful.
Recently, I had a patient who needed new bilateral AFOs. He had been in custom, articulated AFOs for decades but wanted to know about alternative devices. I was hesitant to stray from his current design but we tried out a more modern, carbon-fiber design to satisfy his curiosity. After walking just a short while, he said, "I haven't walked this well in 28 years!" His reaction reminds me to listen to my patients and address their needs. We need to adapt and evolve with the times.