Rosie Jované C.: Passion for Progress

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"If Rosie has ever met an obstacle she couldn't overcome, I don't know what it is."- Mel Stills, CO(E)

Advancement of prosthetics and orthotics in Latin America has had a lot to do with a strong, vivacious, lovely lady with a passion for the profession and for lifelong learning. Rosielena "Rosie" Jované C., a registered orthotist-prosthetist from Panama, has helped ignite a fire for P&O's professional growth throughout the hemisphere. She has been one of the driving forces behind the founding of the Panama Member Society of the International Society for Prosthetics and Orthotics (ISPO), other ISPO member societies in Latin America, seminars, conferences, workshops, and other educational events.

Rosie, along with John Craig, CPO, helped organize the first Central American association of O&P and rehabilitation professionals (known as ACOPPRA-Asociación Centroamericana de Ortesistas, Protesistas y Profesionales Afines), which later developed into ISPO-Panama. According to Craig, other Latin American ISPO member societies that owe much to Rosie include those in Argentina, Chile, and Colombia as well as Panama. More member societies are developing in other countries in the region.

Rosie Jované with Dr. Perdomo, Panama.
Rosie Jované with Dr. Perdomo, Panama.

She was the first national director of the Panamanian Foundation "FPI" (Fundación Pro Integración). One of its missions was to gather, on a national scale, solid statistical data on various disabilities and the total population affected by them. She also was a volunteer for the orthopedic clinics at the Santo Tomás Hospital and the Hospital del Niño in Panama, as well as supporting the annual consultations offered in Panama by Shriners Hospital of Shreveport, Louisiana.

Lately, she has been involved with ISPO Panama in the new program "Uniting Frontiers," a forum for Central American rehab professionals to engage in an open dialogue to evaluate the O&P and rehab service level and find ways to improve it. [Editor's note: For more information, see "Uniting Frontiers," Perspective, February 2006 issue of The O&P EDGE.) She's been a Latin American regional consultant for ISPO and a supporter of US-ISPO, although not a member of that branch; she is a member of ISPO-Panama.

Influencing P&O

How have Rosie, and other dedicated professionals like her, influenced P&O in Latin America?

Mel Stills, CPO, gives an example: "When I went to University Don Bosco in El Salvador as an observer for the Patrick Leahy War Victims Fund, while an ISPO team conducted the exam, I was very much impressed with the quality of performances by the students. Even though the school is ISPO Category II-a notch lower than ABC [American Board for Certification in Orthotics and Prosthetics]-I thought they were at a professional level with what I would have expected of graduates of American P&O schools. I attribute much of this to persons like Rosie."

Radio broadcast.
Radio broadcast.

The fire has caught on-observers note how eager and appreciative Latin American professionals are to learn more and how much they appreciate opportunities to enhance their expertise. "Latin American orthotists and prosthetists are very passionate about their work," Craig commented. "Let me give you an example: when we organized a meeting in San Jose, Costa Rica, in 1990, people came who had traveled two or three days by bus and had given up a significant amount of their income to be there. Then they stayed in a room with three to six other people and ate perhaps just one meal a day so they could learn. We usually had sessions from 8 AM to 5 PM with a break for lunch, but on most occasions people wanted more, so in the evenings we would offer more instruction. In Colombia, there were extra sessions in the evenings that went to 8 or 9 PM."

Added Stills, "I'm impressed with the seminars and workshops in Latin America in which I've participated. Everybody shows up, ready to work, ready to listen. It's not like some meetings in the US where there might be a half-empty room because of some nearby [recreational] attraction. They're always extremely appreciative of the information."

Passionate but Pragmatic

Rosie's colleagues expressed their appreciation for her qualities.

Poster of the ISPO & ACOPPRA regional meeting in Panama.
Poster of the ISPO & ACOPPRA regional meeting in Panama.

"She's always been a passionate, outspoken, constructive critic, and she always has a workable solution in mind to solve difficulties, whether they are patient fittings or bureaucratic snafus," said John Michael, MEd, CPO, FAAOP, FISPO, who has worked with Rosie in various ISPO activities. "She's an exceptional contributor-passionate without being unreasonable. She's heartfelt, holds her ground, but she's not close-minded or contentious-just passionate. She is very committed to advancing the field."

"Rosie could always handle egos, disagreements, and people putting up roadblocks to plans," Craig said. "Some people give up when they run into obstacles, but Rosie is not that kind of person."

"Her professionalism really comes through, along with a totally uninhibited enthusiasm for P&O," said Stills.

"She has devoted much of her own time and money in promoting educational opportunities and ways to advance P&O," Craig noted. "She has provided scholarships for people to attend meetings and devoted untold hours of her personal time in helping others organize these types of activities."

Craig recalls that Rosie arranged for ISPO Panama to provide P&O services for persons who might otherwise not be able to get them. ISPO-Panama accepted component donations and volunteer services from prosthetists, but amputees who were helped had to give back to others by volunteering their own time to ISPO Panama.

"She's been a strong promoter of improved education, but she's pragmatic," Craig said. "She realized that there has to be a way for people who have been in P&O for a period of time to improve their knowledge and skills without having to leave jobs and families for an extended period of time." Thus Rosie has been a proponent of distance-learning programs online. Also, "she has organized a lot of seminars to help professionals improve their skills; for instance, how to work with plastics appropriately, how to choose and use appropriate types of components; and the value of using quality materials so devices will last longer."

"I have worked with Rosie for a number of years and I'd say she is nothing short of a phenomenon," said Rob Kistenberg, MPH, CP, FAAOP, chair of the US Member Society of ISPO. "She is readily available even though she travels across the globe. She is insightful as to local and regional nuances regarding culture and language for the Western Hemisphere and beyond. She is adept at navigating the sometimes turbulent political waters of national and international P&O while maintaining a friendly demeanor with all parties involved. She is always willing to do whatever she can to make things better for practitioners and patients.

"In my role as chair of US-ISPO, I have found her to be an invaluable resource for connecting with practitioners, physicians, therapists, and other allied health professionals in order to move projects forward in the spirit of collaboration," Kistenberg added. "And professional responsibilities aside, she is a great friend and a dedicated mother."

Confronting Difficulties

To really appreciate what Rosie and others have accomplished, one needs to consider the situation confronting them.

"Both Rosie and I feel that the multidisciplinary approach is extremely important to have the optimum outcome, especially for poor persons," Craig said. "But that was basically unknown in Latin America. When we founded ACOPPRA, which was modeled after ISPO, it was a regional organization to get people to work together in a multidisciplinary practice setting. Previously, there was little opportunity for prosthetists and orthotists to have continuing education opportunities. There were professional meetings for physicians and physical therapists, but orthotists/prosthetists were not included."

Typically, when a person goes to a clinic for a preprosthetic assessment, the clinic team or the physiatrist or orthopedist looks at the patient chart, considers comorbidities, and decides what services are needed, Craig explained. However, at some hospitals, the team was unable to obtain a patient chart from the hospital for two or three days-and by then the patient had come and gone! Often, patients would walk into the hospital with a diabetic foot wound-and walk out with an amputation-without more conservative options being considered or a final diagnosis charted. Promoting the value of a multidisciplinary approach by bringing together dedicated rehabilitation professionals from several disciplines has helped improve the level of care, to the benefit of the patients.

"Rosie and I have worked closely in ACOPPRA and other activities over the years, and it's rewarding to look back and see a generation of work and how much things have improved in the region since the late 80s, although much work remains to be done," Craig summed up.

Attracted to P&O

What attracted this dynamic woman to the P&O field?

As her story begins, she was born the fourth of eight children in Panama City, Panama. After the political exile of her father, followed by the separation of her parents, she traveled considerably as a young girl, living in different cities and countries. "In these periods of my youth, seeing how my mother was in a constant and insatiable search to accomplish her own goals in life in spite of being left alone with the eight of us, made me recognize at such a young age the importance of fighting for what you think is right and knowing that in this life there is no space for giving up.' Her constant support and advice in every aspect of my life has made me the professional woman and mother I am today," said Rosie.

After finishing her secondary education, she worked in the Hospital Regional of Chiriquí in Panama. "Of all the services provided, the one that really attracted me was the Orthopaedics Department," Rosie said. "This led me later to see P&O as a career." After finishing the three-year P&O course in Argentina, Rosie visited the US. "I discovered to my dismay that I had learnt only the basics, since this is a rapidly advancing industry and many important things were not included in my education, such as the use of thermoplastics in O&P. This was a real challenge for me."

However, this realization didn't discourage Rosie; it simply spurred her on. "Our education and training never finishes; it is not the title which makes us professionals," she said emphatically.

"Accepting that we do not know everything, even after receiving that big title' of CPO [Argentina],' was not easy. But at the same time the best motivation for me to continue investigating' was the desire for more knowledge," she continued. "In those graduate years, there were few women CPOs in Central America, and this too represented a considerable challenge in a male-dominated industry."

Rosie now works as assistant director, Marketing & Sales, International Department, for Becker Orthopedic, Troy, Michigan.

Rosie started working for Becker Orthopedic at the beginning of 1996 in Panama. Life challenged Rosie one more time when Becker offered her a position in the United States.

Her decision to accept the offer brought Rosie to a "new beginning" after the sadness of divorce, to a country with a different culture, a different language, and a very different climate. As she said, "I left the Panamanian Tropics to come to the North Pole."

She left her whole family behind and came to Michigan with her daughters, Stephanie, who was eight years old at the time, and Carolina, six at the time. She expressed, "I felt very sure with my decision to move to Michigan, and I was able to control my emotions and say goodbye to my family and friends at the Tocumen International Airport in Panama City. When the plane departed, I was not able to hold it anymore and I cried for quite a long time-realizing that I was by myself and that I needed to survive one more time, especially now for our future and the well-being of my two girls."

At present, her responsibilities at Becker include assisting all Spanish-speaking customers, including its customers from Brazil, Spain, and Portugal. "The success of Becker's presence in the Latin American market and other regions is that we offer personalized customer service that often surpasses the expectation of our own clients," said Rosie, "and this is so important in this age of globalization and automation of services."

"Becker recognized the quality in Rosie," said Stills, "Becker is interested, I feel, in marketing quality P&O in education, including seminars. It's not all about money and sales."

Family Time, Future Goals

Rosie with daughters Stephanie and Carolina
Rosie with daughters Stephanie and Carolina

Rosie continues to work for improved education and advancing educational opportunities for Latin American professionals. "I feel that there is much more that we can do in terms of O&P services for the community with special requirements, and I am fortunate in having been able to establish a bridge between the USA, the rest of the world, and my Latin American region," she said. When asked about her goals for the future, Rosie replied, "I would like to find the formula so that all of us that work in this field achieve a change of attitude in order to be successful and to be sensitive to the needs of the less fortunate."

"She's never lost sight of her roots and the needs of the people of Central and South America; she works hard to bring up the level of practice," noted Stills.

For relaxation, Rosie loves to spend time with Stephanie and Carolina, now aged 15 and 13. Rosie has a very close and special relationship with her daughters. She has given the girls the opportunity to travel to different countries with her, and at the same time the girls have had the opportunity to share and to live the values and desires of their mother in improving the lives of others with special needs.

"I also enjoy both my work and the bonds with customers who are my friends as well. My international activities related with my job and my association with ISPO provide me the much-needed mental relaxation from office work," she added.

However, one of Rosie's chief interests sums up both the person and the professional: "To be able to see that all the efforts made by many sensitive colleagues to improve O&P services around the world are being planted in fertile soil and will be there for the upcoming generation to harvest the seeds of ongoing success!"