P&O American Style

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By Students of Salford University, Salford, UK

Our first visit in the USA was to the University of Washington, Seattle, where we met fellow P&O students. Mr. John Ferguson, senior lecturer in P&O, delivered a warm and light-hearted presentation which gave insight into the world of P&O in America. This was most interesting, since it highlighted the differences between not only our health services but also our approach to these services. Then we had a chance to socialize with the students during lunch and enjoy our new friends.

That afternoon we visited the Prosthetics Research Study Center. The primary focus of this center is to raise awareness of the importance of research in this area and also the importance of continued learning amongst surgeons specializing in amputation.

After a drive, a ferry ride, a spectacular view of Mount Olympus, and another drive, we met with Mr. David Hensley of Seattle Systems, and, again, with the University of Washington students. We toured the Seattle Systems facilities and saw some of the incredibly high-tech machinery used to make its products. For instance, we saw multiple AFOs being draped, cooled, and ready to be cut out in under 20 minutes, as well as an amazing water cutter used to cut the materials to the pattern used in the prosthetic components. The following day a University of Washington student partnered with each of us as we all ventured off to various clinics around Seattle. Here we were exposed to not only the clinical environment, but also the technical and administrative side of the businesses. Each of us had different experiences, but I think we all agreed that this was the best day.

On to Vancouver

We spent the second week of our expedition in Vancouver, Canada. Our first visit was to Generation II Orthotics, which specializes in custom knee braces. We were warmly welcomed by the managing director, Lance Taylor, and shown to a boardroom where we were provided with, amongst other things, fresh coffee and sunglasses-an act of great foresight after a late night exploring the local bars and clubs.

We were given an overview of how Lance's father, Geordie, came up with a new multiaxial hinge design, leading to the birth of GII Orthotics. The range of knee braces and their advantages were discussed, followed by a very interesting tour of the factory, from the plaster room, where the technicians filled and rectified the casts, to the shop floor, where the carbon-fiber knee braces were custom-molded over the casts and the devices finished off by adding the necessary componentry.

During the day, we saw a vast range of unusual sights, including a consultation with a stunt man who had sustained collateral ligament damage whilst working on a recent Hollywood blockbuster, a knee brace made for a dog that had ruptured a cruciate ligament, and a knee brace in the midst of fabrication for a 464-lb lady.

Our final visits of the adventure were to two companies located next door to each other: Pentland Prosthetic and Orthotic Services Inc and Vorum Research Group. In the morning, Pentland Prosthetic and Orthotic Services showed us around its relatively small plant that dealt with both prosthetics and orthotics. After a brief tour of the establishment, including its CAD/CAM facilities, an orthotist and prosthetist and a couple of technicians came to talk to us about the educational programs and qualifications required to practice in Canada.

We then visited Vorum Research Group, which entertained us with a very interesting, if not a little commercial, presentation of its CAD/CAM system. The system can be used to create both prosthetic and orthotic devices, including body jackets and cranial molding helmets. Creating a cranial molding helmet was demonstrated by placing a doll in a special scanning unit and digitizing the "baby's" head.

A Successful Trip

The trip was hailed as a success. We had come away from all the venues having learned new things, seen a new technique, or quite simply being made aware of a technology or practice that we had not previously known. All this new knowledge with which we were now armed allowed us to put our accompanying lecturers, Mr. Joe Wilkinson and Miss Sophie Hill, under pressure by grilling them-perhaps even they learned something?

Our remaining days were filled with sightseeing, more thought-provoking conversations, and some slightly more strenuous recreational activities.

Many thanks to all who helped make our visit abroad so enjoyable. Also, thanks to June Burgess and Jane Muir of the British Association of Prosthetists and Orthotists (BAPO), who organized some work for us and provided us with a charity stall at the conference last year in Manchester.

We would like to thank all the sponsors for their kind donations, and also the University of Salford for its continued support during the trip, and especially Mr. Joe Wilkinson, without whom the trip may not have been possible.

Despite the hard work and determination involved in raising both donations and sponsorship, we believe that this field trip will encourage future P&O students to organize further ventures. This will help them attain a greater understanding and knowledge of how prosthetists and orthotists the world over strive to provide the best possible service and care for each of their patients.

Our Trip to North America: Why?

The purpose of our field trip abroad was primarily to further our prosthetic and orthotic knowledge, whilst hopefully exposing ourselves to a different clinical perspective, not only on the treatment of patients, the materials used, and the prescription rationale, but also regarding the organization of the clinical environment and the services that each center offers it patients.

How It All Came Together!

The idea for the field trip was first put to us by Mr. Joe Wilkinson, a lecturer at the University of Salford. After a class discussion, a group of students were keen to be involved in the organizing of the trip. So a committee was formed, a bank account opened, and the fun began.

The first couple of meetings between the committee highlighted two main areas of concern: where to go and how to pay for it. The first area, happily and surprisingly enough, was a unanimous verdict for the USA. Then came the tough one: how to pay. We all know how hard up students are these days, what with the cost of a pint spiraling out of control-almost above the two pounds a pint mark-so there was only one thing for it: cut down our drinking or start fund raising! Fund raising it was; however, it was decided that each student would contribute a monthly sum to the bank account to help. After all, if we weren't going to help ourselves, then why should anyone help us?

Over the next two years, various parties, raffles, jumper and t-shirt sales, and sponsored events took place. These events, together with money that the students had saved, provided us with most of the money required. The remainder was very kindly donated by a number of companies within the industry, including Ossur Europe, Otto Bock, RSL Steeper, Medi UK, Remploy, North Sea Plastics and BLESMA.

On behalf of all those who benefited from the field trip and myself, a very big thank you to all who supported us.-Thomas Ramsay, chairperson, P&O America 2002