Catherine A. Carter
More Than Two Decades of Credentialing
Catherine A. Carter, MA, has been serving ABC for 23 years, first as director of professional credentialing and then for the last 15 years as executive director. She directs the organizational leadership of all ABC activities including strategic planning initiatives, program development and financial management. She communicates ABC's goals, policies, and activities to the profession and participates as a speaker and panel member at international, national, and regional meetings and conferences.
MAJOR CHANGES IN ABC AND O&P
During those years, the number of ABC-certified individuals has grown from 5,000 to more than 12,000, and the number of accredited facilities has grown from 1,200 to 5,000, Carter says. ABC also developed new credentials to address gaps in provision of care, including those for certified assistants, pedorthists, and orthotic, mastectomy, and therapeutic shoe fitters.
Practitioner clinical patient management exams have been transformed to maintain their relevancy to current education and contemporary practice and by creating digital platforms and establishing a testing center to broaden testing capabilities. She adds that ABC has a strong financial base that supports its mission and programs.
In 2007, ABC ramped up its accreditation program to quickly expand and provide accreditation to a much larger number of facilities to gain deemed authority status with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).
Carter has focused on improving ABC's services by creating a director of clinical resources position filled by Steve Fletcher, CPO, an experienced O&P practitioner, to provide timely, accurate answers and solutions to even complex, urgent questions from ABC credential holders, she explains. "The benefit to our stakeholders and our staff was immediate and has been an ongoing and extremely valuable resource for ABC."
ABC is volunteer driven, so Carter instituted a leadership education program to create a culture of informed, engaged leadership. "All levels of volunteers—task force members, committee members, examiners, board members—need to be engaged and appreciated," she says.
Carter mentions the major changes in the profession over the years, echoing some of the changes Seabrook mentioned: raising the level of entry-level education for orthotists and prosthetists to a master's degree, more states requiring licensure, greater recognition of the O&P practitioner as a fundamental part of the rehabilitation team, and use of technology.
CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES
Carter sees an abundance of opportunities and some challenges for the O&P profession related to increasing need for O&P patient care services, technology use, changes in the delivery of care model reimbursement issues, distinguishing O&P from other healthcare professions, outcomes studies and evidence-based practice, and research. "Hand skills need to go along with increased knowledge," Carter says. "O&P professionals must be able to digest and apply research."
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
Carter sees ABC's focus remaining on setting standards for the profession, "but we'll also strive to ensure that we continue to create programs that benefit our stakeholders based on their future needs. The ABC board of directors is always looking ahead to align our strategic vision with the future.
"The O&P Alliance has greatly changed the way the O&P organizations collaborate on the Alliance's three priorities of quality and qualifications, coverage and reimbursement, and education and research. The Alliance has increased our interorganizational communication and assisted with developing a greater opportunity for speaking with one voice. Each organization continues to hold its mission up while coming together on common challenges and opportunities."
When Carter became executive director, ABC had a staff of eight "that worked in their own departments with little input to ABC's programs outside their own area," Carter says. "I wanted to create a more collaborative environment at ABC. We began to educate all of our staff about all of ABC's programs and how they impact the services individuals in need of O&P care receive. Today we have a cohesive team of 17 that understands what Harry Truman meant when he said, ‘It is amazing what you can accomplish if you don't care who gets the credit.'"
Because her father was an Army officer, Carter says while she was growing up, she and her family called many places home. When asked about what has especially influenced her life course and goals, Carter answers, "The largest influence in my life have probably been my parents who taught me the most important things you can do are to love and support your family, your work, and your country." In her free time, she enjoys reading, traveling, and spending time with family and friends.