The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, is
pushing public awareness with an outreach program that casts its
O&P alumni as ambassadors. Their website, www.utsouthwestern.edu/po, not only defines
O&P as an attractive career prospect, but also encourages
website visitors to “visit a P&O professional” in their area by
clicking on a state. The site’s locator directs them to their
nearest practicing UT Southwestern P&O alumnus.
Susan Kapp, CPO, assistant professor and director, UT
Southwestern Prosthetics-Orthotics Program, explained that,
although the School of Allied Health has always had a very
effective recruitment program, about four years ago applications
decreased noticeably. Two years later, the situation was
worsening-to the extent, said Kapp, that the Admissions Office took
note and sat down with her to brainstorm a solution.
“When they looked at our applicant pool, as compared to other
programs in the school, they noted that more than half of our
students came from around the country, very much unlike the PT or
PA programs, where most applicants are from within the state,” Kapp
They determined that the most cost-effective way to recruit
out-of-state students was through a website, said Kapp, as opposed
to mailing nationally or actually traveling to reach prospective
students. “The first place many people are going to look these days
is the web, anyway,” Kapp pointed out. “So that’s where the idea
came from to build a website that would reach nationwide.”
The idea for the click-on map that invites guests to “visit a P
& O professional” actually came from the director of alumni
affairs, who recalled that the medical school had a similar program
called “A Day with the Doc,” which allows medical students in
search of a specialty to look for alums from Southwestern in the
specialty area, contact them and/or spend time with them.
“We used that model to build our site and locator map,” Kapp
The site was planned early last summer and actually launched in
“It was fast!” Kapp admitted. “We got good support from our web
developers here on campus, as well as from our admissions
Every alumnus received a letter asking them to participate in
the program and to confirm their willingness to respond to
inquiries from prospective students. Follow-up was done by phone or
e-mail to reach those alumni who failed to respond. To date, “maybe
half of the contacted alumni” have agreed to be listed, covering
not quite 50 states yet, Kapp said.
In conjunction with the website, Southwestern created a poster
guiding prospects to the site and mailed it to clinicians, guidance
counselors, physical therapists, physician assistants, and other
“There are few places on the web for career changers to find
information about what prosthetists and orthotists actually do. If
you can get folks to the site, the battle is won,” she said.
No measurement system is in place to determine how many alumni
have been contacted by potential O&P students as a result of
the website; nor how many applicants have been influenced by the
program, although some students report that they have been in touch
with Southwestern O&P graduates-“whether as a result of our web
site or not, I can’t say for certain,” reported Kapp.
O&P Practitioner “Profiling”
Another idea for attracting more O&P students came from John
Michael, MEd, CPO, FISPO, FAAOOP, president of CPO Services.
Michael suggested that a profile be developed of people now
applying for positions or currently enrolled in O&P schools and
programs. This profile can then be used to reach other similar
types. “Let’s try to figure why good applicants entered the field
despite the specter of managed care, then target our marketing
program accordingly,” he advised.
The objective, he said, should be to attract not necessarily
more applicants, but more topnotch applicants.
“Many career changers have also done well in the field,” he
pointed out. “But how do we get top-level folks to switch careers
He cited an aerospace engineer and experts in other fields who
have successfully switched to O&P, and pointed out that he
spent five or six years in the psychology field before choosing to
“stop talking and do something!”
The O&P Awareness Committee of the American Academy of
Orthotists and Prosthetists (AAOP) is targeting those people
already in the job force who are desirous of making a career
change. [Editor’s note: For more information about the Academy’s
O&P Awareness initiative, please see the article on page 22 of
the September issue of The O&P EDGE or read it online.]
“A few years ago there was a glut of PTs graduating, and not
enough jobs available to accommodate the supply of thousands,” said
Tom Gorski, CAE, the Academy’s executive director. “O&P is a
wonderful option for physical therapists. They already have the
basic anatomy and basic health courses O&P practitioners
need-as do others in the allied health professions and many
military-trained people who have received valuable on-the-job
Morris Gallo, CPO, a member of the Florida licensure board and
one of the architects of the state’s licensure law, also identified
physical therapists, physiatrists, and occupational therapists as
people who share the same core science knowledge as O&P
practitioners and could make an easy transition out of their field
and into O&P. “This may be a valuable pool of future
practitioners, since the commonly shared foundation knowledge is
already there,” he commented.
Mark Edwards, CP, director of Prosthetics Education,
Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois, noted that those
individuals who need to be aware of the O&P profession are
those with biomedical engineering background; and those who share
allied health backgrounds, who may have heard things about the
profession also need to be targeted.
Judith Otto is a freelance writer based in Holly Springs, Mississippi.