Geoffrey Christian, CO, of the Orthopliance Group, headquartered in Toluca Lake, California, is as much a firm believer in technical skills as he is in relationship-building skills to meet the needs of his pediatric patients and their parents. Aside from trying to be as "kid friendly" as possible and explaining each step of the treatment to the child he is treating, he also understands the importance of his relationship with the patient's parents or guardians. As part of that relationship, he offers access to care in convenient locations by providing services through the local public school district's on-campus medical therapy units so his patients miss fewer classes, or he meets with them at offices that are more convenient for the family. And because he understands the social impact of wearing a brace, Christian balances the best physical solution with their social concerns.
1. How did you become interested in O&P?
I was thinking of going into physical therapy (PT) after college, so I began working for Children's Hospital Los Angeles, California, as a PT aide assisting with gait training, applying casts, and making splints for patients who were being fitted for AFOs. Then I started making my own AFOs using a standard shop vacuum to pull the plastic. These were only for temporary wear, but I was still constantly trying to improve my work. I was introduced to an orthotist and soon began working with him. I enjoyed fabricating and appreciated the functional role of the orthotist, which led me to change course and attend the orthotics program at the Northwestern University Prosthetics-Orthotics Center, Chicago, Illinois.
2. What has motivated or inspired you?
I love working with kids because they are so resilient. Children do not let a disability slow them down; they just want to be active and play. Most of the patients I see have not experienced a loss or decline in a former level of mobility, so for them wearing a brace means increasing their physical ability. If I can give them the chance to be more active, even just to be able to stand at a table and play with a toy or interact with other children, then I have improved their quality of life—and that is tremendously rewarding.
I have a few patients I have seen for more than 18 years that have now graduated from high school and gone on to college. I really enjoy watching kids grow and change through the years—you develop a connection with them—and seeing them grow into independent young adults is exciting.
3. What is your approach to patient care?
I take a team approach, working with the physician, physical therapist, and parents to develop a unique solution and the best possible outcome for each child. Sometimes it means navigating the balance between developing a plan that will generate the best medical outcome for the child with solutions that will be acceptable to the parents.
4. What are your professional goals?
I am always seeking out new orthotic devices and treatment options to serve my patients better. I would love to work more closely with manufacturers in the development or refinement of products they create, based on our experiences in the field. Products need to be extremely adaptable because of the customization needs.
5. Do you have an exceptional story you would like to tell?
Eight years ago, my wife and I climbed Tanzania's Mt. Kilimanjaro. We trained for months and were in great shape for the journey. The final ascent is physically taxing, and we arrived at the top exhilarated but exhausted. Every time I read about those adventurers who do that same trek with the aid of an O&P device, I am in awe of their spirit and ability not to let anything stand in their way.