Education Beyond the Classroom

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By Michael Carroll

I can't remember exactly when I started going to O&P professional meetings, but I do know that I have always enjoyed them. The 2009 annual meeting of the American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists (the Academy) in Atlanta, Georgia, was no exception. It was great meeting industry leaders as well as those whom I've known for as long as I can remember. I've enjoyed these meetings primarily because of the people—a wonderful collection of caring individuals working toward providing better care through education and advancement. Speaking of education, at this year's Academy meeting, there were so many incredible presentations, and I was lucky enough to catch more presentations than I had expected. Too bad those CEUs don't apply for students!

Something that has always amazed me is the amputation of a limb. Two of the presentations that I was able to sit in on discussed this. The first was "Understanding the Different Amputation Procedures for the Transtibial Amputee." After reading the title, I put it into my phone to alert me before the presentation began to ensure that I wouldn't miss it. Little did I know that the main presenter is a clinician I know all too well: Kevin Carroll, MS, CP, FAAOP. (Full disclosure: For those who do not already know, Kevin is my father.) In addition to my dad, William J. Ertl, MD, an Oklahoma-based surgeon specializing in critical care and orthopedic surgery, also presented on transtibial amputations focusing primarily on the Ertl procedure, which was pioneered by Ertl's grandfather in 1920.

Another extremely informative presentation was "Targeted Muscle Reinnervation and Emerging Upper-Limb Prosthetic Technologies." This lecture by Laura Miller, PhD, CP; Todd Kuiken, MD, PhD; and Douglas Smith, MD, focused on the use of reinnervation to improve control of an externally powered upper-limb prosthesis. The theory is relatively simple, and the presented results were very impressive. Troy Farnsworth CP, FAAOP, presented a case in which this innovation drastically increased a myoelectric-arm user's ability to control the device. Farnsworth showed a video of the patient performing a variety of tasks with his prosthetic arm—tasks that were difficult before his reinnervation surgery, and comparatively easy after it.

A great program that is offered by the Academy for all of the O&P students who attend the annual meeting is the High School Awareness Program. This program pairs high-school-aged youths from the surrounding area with students who are currently enrolled in baccalaureate and graduate programs in orthotics and prosthetics. The awareness program is intended to encourage high school students to consider becoming O&P professionals. It also helps current O&P students to practice public speaking while promoting the profession.

While all of the meetings I have attended have been great, this particular meeting was different. One of the main differences is that I really got to know all of the students who were in attendance. At last year's meeting, I had the opportunity to have dinner with much of the O&P class of 2008 from St. Petersburg College (SPC), Florida, and one of those students has become an excellent friend. But this year, now that I am also a student, it was easier to find all of the other students in attendance from the different programs in the United States and Canada. After the Student Social, most of my classmates from SPC, as well as students from the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech), Atlanta, and the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT), Burnaby, all went out for dinner. It was great learning about the other programs and getting to know colleagues from these programs. It was so much fun that my classmates and I befriended some of the students on Facebook and encouraged them to plan spring break in St. Petersburg next year.

The Academy meeting provided a great opportunity to get away from school while at the same time becoming even more immersed in the world of O&P. I always love hearing about new technologies and ideologies that are presented at these meetings, and always come away with a sense that I learned something valuable. While listening to a lecture or walking around the exhibit hall, you're exposed to things that you may not otherwise be exposed to. It was an incomparable experience. I'm looking forward to Chicago already. See you there!

Michael Carroll is a junior at St. Petersburg College (SPC), Florida. He will be sharing his experiences with The O&P EDGE as he completes his bachelor's degree in orthotics and prosthetics.