To the theme of “A Whole New World,” more than 2,000 members of the O&P community from 43 countries convened for the 2013 American Orthotic & Prosthetic Association (AOPA) World Congress in Orlando, Florida, for four days of education, networking, new product exhibitions, and social events, September 18-21.
Thursday morning’s opening ceremony was standing room only as patients shared their stories of the impact that O&P professionals have had on their lives, followed by opening remarks from AOPA President Thomas Kirk, PhD. Immediately after, keynote speaker Yoshiyuki Sankai, PhD, a professor at the Graduate School of Systems and Information Engineering, University of Tsukuba, Japan, and president and CEO of CYBERDYNE, Tsukuba, presented data on the results clinicians have achieved in Japan using the Hybrid Assistive Limb™ (HAL) exoskeleton as a rehabilitation device with post-stroke patients, including regaining mobility.
The AOPA Membership Meeting and Awards Ceremony were held Friday morning during which newly elected officers for the 2014 AOPA board of directors were announced: Anita Liberman-Lampear, MA, president; Charles H. Dankmeyer Jr., CPO, president-elect; and James Campbell, PhD, CO, FAAOP, vice-president. Maynard Carkhuff; Donald Shurr, CPO, PT; and Eileen Levis, were also announced as 2014 board members. During this program, AOPA honored Hans Georg Näder, president and CEO of Ottobock, Duderstadt, Germany, with its first International Lifetime Achievement Award.
The O&P EDGE caught up with Näder the evening before and asked him how O&P has evolved since he started working for Ottobock at age 23. Näder said that he’s been amazed by the progression of technology, from mechanical to mechatronics, and innovations in the market that have improved patients’ quality of life. “I see a unique growth opportunity in the new segment of neurorehabilitation,” he said. He also shared his excitement about Ottobock’s plans to build a science center in New York, New York, much like its current center in Berlin, Germany, adding that the project is slated for completion in 2017. He said he believes that this can be a learning and advocacy resource for the industry, comments he reinforced in his award acceptance speech.
Friday’s schedule also included the Sam E. Hamontree, CP, Business Education Lecture Series and the Thranhardt clinical lecture series. This year’s winner of the Hammontree Business Education Award, was Donald E. Katz, MHA, CO, LO, FAAOP, for his lecture, “Using Lean Principles to Document Changes in Staff Workflow and Patient Services.” Howard R. Thranhardt Awards were presented to Silvia Raschke, PhD, and Michael Orendurff, PhD, for “Can You Tell Which Foot Is Which?” and Brian Hafner, PhD, for “Prosthetic Limb Users Survey of Mobility (PLUS-M).”
A number of educational sessions addressed the business challenges facing O&P practices today, including the prevalence of Recovery Audit Contractor (RAC) audits and prepayment audits, the highlight of which was the packed two-hour session, “Everything You Need to Know to Survive RAC and Prepayment Audits in a Desperate Environment,” presented by Peter Thomas, JD, National Association for the Advancement of Orthotics and Prosthetics (NAAOP) general counsel; Joseph McTernan, AOPA director of coding and reimbursement services, education and programming; Devon Bernard, AOPA reimbursement services manager; and Christina A. Hughes, JD, MPH. The session was so popular that handouts ran out quickly; they are now available on AOPA’s website.
With a record-breaking 200 exhibitors on hand, attendees also had opportunities to enhance their knowledge and earn continuing education units. In addition, manufacturers offered targeted demonstrations through short Product Preview Theater presentations. Back for a second year was the Technical Fabrication Contest. Contestants were challenged to produce a prosthosis-a combination orthotic and prosthetic device-for a partial-foot amputee. Submissions were displayed in the exhibit hall and winners were selected in four categories: Practitioner, Ferhan Maher, CPO; Technician, Mark Scheibelhut, CPed; Student,Vincenzo Demarinis; and People’s Choice, Brian Killen and Yann Paitel.
The AOPA World Congress also offered time for socializing and relaxation, with a special reception in the exhibit hall with the DreamWorks characters, Shrek® and Fiona®, the sixth annual O&P Political Action Committee (PAC) Wine Tasting and Auction, the Thranhardt Golf Classic, and a Marvel Super Hero Island® Street Party at Universal Studios Florida, Orlando. In addition, several businesses and organizations celebrated milestones, among them, Nabtesco Proteor USA, celebrated PROTEOR Group’s 100-year anniversary. Other anniversary celebrants included the American Board for Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics and Pedorthics (ABC), 65 years; Cascade Orthopedic Supply, Chico, California, 30 years; College Park Industries, Warren Michigan, 25 years; and the Orthotic and Prosthetic Group of America (OPGA), Waterloo, Iowa, 20 years.
Ultraflex Systems, Pottstown, Pennsylvania, also celebrated its 23-year partnership with the O&P profession and reaching its 200,000 patient milestone with a special event at which it held a drawing for a $1,000 grand prize. The winning ticket drawn was that of Tonja Randolph, president and publisher of The O&P EDGE, who announced that the prize will be donated to the American Red Cross flood relief fund in Colorado to help those who were affected by the floods that ravaged 14 counties in the state during the early part of September.
The final day of the World Congress featured an appearance by Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) who shared her inspiring story of recovery and offered her thanks to the O&P professionals for the services they offer and for taking the time to listen to their patients’ goals. Duckworth challenged audience members to reach out to their congressional representatives and hold them accountable to their constituents and position by asking them to take specific actionable items, such as signing onto proposed legislation or advocating for a particular policy change, and following up with them. She has joined Representatives Glenn Thompson (R-PA), Mike Thompson (D-CA), and A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD) as a cosponsor of House Resolution 3112, the Medicare Orthotics and Prosthetics Improvement Act of 2013.
AOPA’s 2014 National Assembly will take place September 3-6 in Las Vegas, Nevada.