Master’s Program Profile Series: Loma Linda University (LLU)

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The O&P EDGE continues its series of National Commission on Orthotic and Prosthetic Education (NCOPE)-accredited master's level O&P educational programs.

This month we look at LLU's School of Allied Health Profession's entry-level Master of Science in Orthotics and Prosthetics (el-MSOP) Program.


Background

Third-year students with prototype

Third-year students prototype a bipedal robot as part of their biomechatronics class. Photographs courtesy of the LLU O&P program.

Loma Linda University (LLU), California, is a Seventh-day Adventist health sciences university whose mission includes "educating ethical and proficient Christian health professionals and scholars through instruction, example, and the pursuit of truth." LLU's el-MSOP program is located within the LLU Medical Center-the only O&P master's program with its practical education based in an active clinic-which provides students the opportunity to interact with working professionals and get a clear view of the daily process, says Johannes "Hans" Schaepper, MDiv, CPO, program director, who has been a part of the program since its development. As part of that daily process, students immediately learn about Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) privacy requirements and professional behavior. They attend the labs associated with their coursework after the clinic has closed for the day. Schaepper says that LLU's el-MSOP program is training students to be what he calls orthoprosthetists, "dually educated, dually skilled professionals... who will have a profound effect on the future of O&P."

Program

The el-MSOP program is led by four full-time O&P instructors, four contract instructors who teach one course per quarter, and 21 allied health professionals who teach interdisciplinary courses. The first graduating class from the el-MSOP program finished its coursework and externships in December 2013 after ten quarters, one of the lengthiest of the NCOPE-accredited O&P master's programs.

In describing the program's emphasis and educational goals, Schaepper notes the differences in clinician accountability since he began practicing 28 years ago. Because the emphasis is now on the "medical big picture," he says that the el-MSOP program must provide an interdisciplinary education in conjunction with the practical skills clinicians will need to accurately prescribe and treat patients and participate in managing a business. To that end, the program includes broad medical instruction (biomechatronics, advanced functional neuroanatomy), business and technical courses (patient management, assessment, and documentation; economics and business management; CAD/CAM technologies); and courses that focus on ethics and humanitarian outreach (legal and ethical issues in the health professions; Christian ethics and healthcare); along with research and research methods to support the prescription and decision-making processes specific to O&P patient care.

As part of the 750 hours of supervised clinical practice required for completion of the el-MSOP curriculum, students participate in grand rounds, "a crucial part of the clinical education," according to Schaepper. Grand rounds involve student cohorts from all levels of the el-MSOP program. Students in their first six quarters of the program spend two hours each week in clinics or facilities that provide non-O&P medical care, such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, or orthopedics. Students in the next three quarters of their education spend eight hours per week at an O&P facility, which increases to 40 hours per week in their final quarter. All student cohorts gather each week to share presentations based on their clinical experiences. They use the collaboration to inform each class about the progression of clinical care as they advance through the program. Each student will also present a case study from his or her clinical practice, which includes detailed background information and biomechanical justification for the chosen orthotic or prosthetic design.

Students

Students arrive with 80 hours of observation under their belts as preparation for the program. As well as the grand rounds that build their skill and knowledge, students also participate in clinical rotations at LLU in O&P, speech therapy, and pediatric rehabilitation, among others, before moving on to rotations at private O&P clinics. After their final quarter spent seeing patients full time, students are prepared to transition to a residency program.

Third-year students Amber Thill and Brittney Burtnett

From left: Third-year students Amber Thill and Brittney Burtnett modify an upper-limb prosthesis as part of their bionics and cyborg technologies class.

Aside from the master's level final project that requires conducting research, processing data, and writing a thesis, el-MSOP students also include an element that supports LLU's emphasis on humanitarian care, what it calls a "culture of service," and what Schaepper says "opens up the entire spectrum between sophistication and practicality." With a $20 spending limit, each student must build a knee disarticulation prosthesis that does not include any first-world products.

Schaepper says that he occasionally talks with students who have become hesitant about entering the O&P profession due to its current challenges, and he offers them a silver lining. He points out that as the new generation of O&P providers, students will be prepared to use all of the knowledge and skills of the past, with the awareness of and preparation for facing the current challenges, to influence and define the future of the profession.

Editor's note: Articles in this series do not constitute an endorsement or recommendation of any program. Programs will be covered in an order determined by the editor, and all NCOPE-accredited O&P master's degree programs will be given the opportunity to be featured.