ACA's 2008 Annual Conference Is One for the Record Books

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Shortly after the 2007 Amputee Coalition of America (ACA) annual conference, the ACA announced that its president and CEO, Paddy Rossbach, RN, would be retiring early in 2008. Rossbach kicked off the 2008 conference, held June 19-22 at the Renaissance Waverly Hotel in Atlanta, Georgia, by stating, "This is obviously going to be the longest retirement goodbye ever."

While retirement is still imminent for Rossbach, it's clear that neither she nor the ACA has slowed down. The 2008 conference drew a record 870 attendees, including nearly 270 who were attending for the first time. The ACA attributed the rise in attendance in part to interest in the proposed federal prosthetic parity law.

"Conference sessions were well-attended on the proposed federal insurance parity law, the Prosthetic Parity Act of 2008, which requires insurance companies to cover prosthetic care as they do all essential medical care," Rossbach said. "Also attracting a lot of attention was a session covering the campaigns around the country supporting state legislation for health insurance parity for prostheses."

The family youth sessions, including "Why Am I Different?" offered for the first time at the ACA conference drew enthusiastic participants.
The family youth sessions, including "Why Am I Different?" offered for the first time at the ACA conference drew enthusiastic participants.

Two new tracks also contributed to this year's attendance spike. The ACA partnered with Childrens Healthcare of Atlanta to bring a child and family track to the conference. According to the ACA, parents seemed to benefit the most from the session "Growing Up-What to Expect," in which adults who had grown up with limb loss and limb difference shared how they had dealt with their childhood experiences. Other sessions included "Understanding Pediatric Amputation," "Recreation and More for Young Amputees," and "Why Am I Different?" Parents and children also benefited from the family networking sessions. One parent of a child with an amputation wrote on the ACA evaluation form, "I love meeting parents like me!"

The ACA also partnered with the UpperEx National Outreach Coalition (UNOC) to bring an upper-extremity track to this years conference. Eric Westover, chairman of the UNOC and founder of UpperEx.com said he was pleased with the attendance numbers at the upper-extremity sessions.

"I don't have an exact count, but I'm guessing we had between 45 and 50 attending the [upper-extremity] sessions," Westover said. "We had a really good mix of...amputees, parents, [and] practitioners." He said that sessions involving occupational therapists seemed to be particularly well-received. "We coupled one session on the role of an OT in upper-extremity rehabilitation with another about secondary conditions of upper-extremity amputation. I don't think people realize that you're more susceptible to other injuries after an upper-extremity amputation. There aren't a lot of those kinds of educational sessions out there for people, so I think some people were interested to learn what it was all about."

At Dance For Health sessions, amputees learn how to stay fit while having fun. Photographs courtesy of Amputee Coalition of America.
At Dance For Health sessions, amputees learn how to stay fit while having fun. Photographs courtesy of Amputee Coalition of America.

While the two new tracks provided depth to the ACA's conference offerings, old favorites continued to draw enthusiastic crowds. In response to last year's demand, the Orthotic and Prosthetic Assistance Fund (OPAF) held three First Swim clinics, and as always, the mobility clinic, led by Robert Gailey, PhD, PT, drew a large crowd. "[People] literally cheered each other on as participants learned to run for the first time," Rossbach said.

The conference featured more than 40 exhibitors, a number of which provided technology sessions during the conference.

Next year marks the 20th anniversary of the ACA conference, which will be held June 18-21, 2009, at the Renaissance Waverly Hotel in Atlanta.