Face to Face: Lauren Wlazlowski, CP, and Brooks Raney, CP
"Opposites attract" is a cliché, but for Lauren Wlazlowski and Brooks Raney it's obviously true. "Our love for O&P brought us together, but beyond that similarity, we're polar opposites," writes the engaged couple, who also recently opened their first facility together, Twin City O&P, Lufkin, Texas. Wlazlowski knew she wanted to join the profession in high school after watching Special Olympians wearing prostheses compete. Raney is a congenital amputee but didn't think about practicing until his final semester of engineering school at the University of Oklahoma, Norman. The two met at the Newington Certificate Program, Connecticut, and then went on to co-manage a practice in Lynchburg, Virginia. Today, they say that opening their own practice was "meant to be."
1. What has motivated you in your professional pursuits?
Wlazlowski: Each patient inspires me. The drive, commitment, and energy they put forward to learn and adapt to their new situation is the reason I continue to put my energy into creating the best devices and continuously look for new alternatives.
Raney: I'm motivated to make every socket as comfortable as possible. After wearing a prosthesis for 30 years, I'm all too familiar with the benefits of a properly fitting socket versus the misery of a badly fitting socket. Professionally, I've been mentored by some of "the greats." I've known Kevin Carroll, MS, CP, FAAOP, all my life, and he's gone out of his way to teach me many things. My residency directors, Matt Luetke, CP, and Doyle Collier, CP, gave me a fantastic residency. I learned technical skills from three of the best technicians in the country, who have a combined 90 years of experience.
2. What emerging trends or exciting advances do you see for the O&P profession?
Raney: I see so many new products in this field that will help patients be more functional and comfortable. Unfortunately, there are so many new products that it's hard for me to try them all. I never put products on patients unless I feel that they are truly what they claim to be.
3. What advice would you give to someone just starting a business?
Raney and Wlazlowski: Create an estimate of the startup costs and time, then double it. In the end, it's worth every ounce of energy and stress. The are no words to describe the feeling of opening the office door in the morning and realizing that we can make any choices we want and provide for our patients the way we feel is correct and ethical.
4. How do you set yourself apart from competing businesses?
Raney and Wlazlowski: By meeting the patient's needs first and foremost. We really listen to our patients talk about their history and goals. We take time to meet some patients in "the real world" to see how they are coping with their device outside of the parallel bars. A patient's life is not 9-to-5, so neither is our job.
5. What is your approach to patient care?
Raney and Wlazlowski: We communicate with our doctors, PTs, patients, and families, and they communicate with us. We do our best to make sure that everyone is on the same page at all times. If patients see us discussing options with their doctor and therapist and everyone is nodding in agreement, the patients are confident and tend to have better outcomes. Additionally, we have a team approach with each other. We have separate strengths, and we combine these as we work to create a better outcome. We don't have our "own" patients. On each patient, one of us takes the lead, but we're both part of the process.