Does the general public-including potential
students-know we exist? Although “we’re not as invisible as
we were 15 years ago,” as John Michael, MEd, CPO, FISPO, FAAOP,
observed, the majority of people have still never heard of the
orthotics and prosthetics profession. Unless people have had an
experience or a relative who has worn a prosthesis, they’re
probably unfamiliar with O&P. Potential practitioner candidates
have no idea of how to get into the profession.
It’s an issue that most O&P practitioners agree needs to be
attacked nationwide with a full-scale marketing effort.
Such an effort is already in progress!
Tom Gorski, CAE, executive director of the American Academy of
Orthotists and Prosthetists (AAOP), described the formation of the
Joint Committee on O&P Awareness in response to the perceived
need to publicize and promote the O&P profession in order to
attract new practitioners to the field.
The Awareness Committee is a coordinated effort of several
O&P organizations: the Academy, the Academy’s College Fund (a
separate organization), the American Orthotic and Prosthetic
Association (AOPA), the American Board for Certification in
Orthotics and Prosthetics (ABC), the National Commission on
Orthotic and Prosthetic Education (NCOPE), the O&P Assistance
Fund (OPAF), and the National Association for the Advancement of
Orthotics and Prosthetics (NAAOP). Each group has a representative
on the committee.
The new committee met for the first time in March 2002 to
identify and assess the problem, Gorski said, adding, “There
is…a growing concern that we must act now or in a few years,
there won’t be enough practitioners to handle the load.”
The US Department of Education, under the Rehabilitative
Services Administration, is awarding a $1 million grant to the
Academy, which will go toward activities to promote national
awareness and a new recruitment campaign, Gorski explained. “The
committee’s goal is to increase student applications to O&P
schools by 10 percent within the first year-and our success
will be measured by the number of students entering O&P college
programs in September 2003.”
The committee mobilized quickly and has acted promptly, Gorski
Its immediate priorities are:
1) To establish a website for career information on orthotics
and prosthetics. (which should soon be available at www.opcareers.org ) This “very complete site”
will include for the first time in one place everything you could
possibly want to know about O&P as a profession, including what
it’s like to be an orthotist or prosthetist, the skills and
aptitude required, the grades needed, what schools offer O&P
programs, what to study, and whether you can be an O&P
practitioner if you have a degree in English. (Yes.)
“The site is like one-stop shopping for a career in
O&P,” Gorski said.
2) To develop a brochure for high school guidance counselors’
use. The brochure explains what an orthotist or prosthetist does
and directs recipients to the website for more information.
3) To produce a slide show and script available to practitioners
who want to participate in local Career Day events and talk to
4) To ensure that O&P is included in career books, including
a US government publication that does not mention orthotics and
prosthetics as a career choice, and does not include O&P in the
list of allied health professions.
5) To update and expand the O&P-related information
available at career-oriented websites. Although two known websites
commonly accessed by guidance counselors do mention O&P, their
information is out of date, especially regarding salary
expectations, Gorski said.
“There’s going to be a need in the very near future for more
orthotists and prosthetists,” said David Schultz, CPO, AOPA
president. “With the baby boomers coming of age, there’s going to
be more illness and more need for rehabilitation, and I think this
O&P Awareness Committee is starting off at just the right time.
It’s going to get the word out as to what we do.”