Bruce Jensen, CPed, and Rhonda Jensen, CPed

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Bruce and Rhonda Jensen have the unusual distinction of sharing a business partnership, an O&P career path, and a 35-year marriage. They began their careers together making leather goods, progressed to cowboy boots and saddles, and then entered the footwear-repair and fabrication business. When Bruce developed Type 1 diabetes 22 years ago, his doctor insisted that he get involved in the world of therapeutic shoes.

"At the time, we thought we didn't want to be looking at diabetic feet all day long," Rhonda says, "But as we got more into it, we realized that we could help people—we know shoes, we know diabetes, and it became a win-win situation for us." Rhonda says that Bruce handles the "big picture" ideas, while she handles the management side and brings Bruce's ideas to life. "We each have our strong suits," she says. "The hardest thing is leaving the business and going home."

They now own Reuter's Inc., the second-oldest business in Topeka, Kansas. Established in 1880, the full-service shop now employs five technicians and a third CPed.

1. How have your careers progressed?

We've been in the shoe repair and retail business for over 30 years, and we kind of reinvent ourselves every ten years or so. We started out making leather goods. Bruce went to the shoe, boot, and saddle school at Oklahoma State University (OSU) Technical College in Okmulgee, and started making cowboy boots. Then we got into shoe repair and did that for years. We had six or seven stores at one time, and then the shoe-repair industry kind of went flat, with everything being made in China, so we started getting more into orthopedics.

As part of helping diabetic patients, we contacted OSU, and Bill Meanwell, CPed, became our instructor. Both of us and one of our shoe technicians all got certified after taking Bill's exciting courses on pedorthics. He made learning pedorthics fun. Our business has evolved over the years as patients needs have changed. We do shoe modification and repair, and make functional and accommodative orthotics.

2. What has motivated you in your professional pursuits?

Bill Meanwell was a great instructor, and the profession is exciting. All of us like to learn, and every day presents a new problem. And we're part of the allied health community—the orthopedic surgeons we work with can do hip replacements, but if you don't put the patient in the right shoes, with the proper inserts, and work with balance issues or leg-length discrepancies, you can do more damage. We reinforce what the doctors do. Now we have a file with many thank-you notes and unsolicited favorable comments.

3. What are your professional goals?

Our goal is to continue working with the allied health community and uphold our good working relations with the physicians who refer us. We'd also like to bill Medicare under the Therapeutic Shoe Bill, to have a retail store filled with orthopedic shoes, and to cast for AFOs and custom shoes.

4. Please describe your approach to patient care.

Our goal is improvement from where patients are when we first see them. Sometimes we have to explain to them that we're not going to get 100-percent improvement, but if we can make them feel better, if we can get some improvement, then we have done our job.

5. How do you set yourself apart from competing businesses and practitioners in your area?

We're a full-service shop, and we always go the extra mile with our patients. For example, when diabetic patients come in, we can do alterations if they have a leg-length discrepancy, lengthen straps, add bubble patches and extra met pads, do medial buttresses and toe fillers—whatever it takes to make the shoe fit. Rhonda always tries to help patients feel good about themselves. She looks at people as a jigsaw puzzle, and her job is to fit the pieces together. She gets great satisfaction in helping people. One thing that's key to helping patients is to focus on their needs and how can we meet those needs.