Anita Liberman-Lampear, MA

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By Miki Fairley

Photographs courtesy of Anita Liberman-Lampear.

Anita Liberman-Lampear, MA, president of the American Orthotic & Prosthetic Association (AOPA), greets new projects and challenges with energy, zest, and enthusiasm, and tackles them with a can-do attitude.

Liberman-Lampear is also the administrative director of the University of Michigan Orthotics and Prosthetics Center (UMOPC), Ann Arbor. During her 44-year career with what is now known as the University of Michigan Health System (UMHS), she has gained expertise in financial, operational, and project management, facility renovation and layout design, managed care contracting, computer information technology and website development, personnel management, and educational program development—skills she brings to her role as AOPA president.

Revitalizing UMOPC

The list of projects and responsibilities that Liberman-Lampear has undertaken over the years are numerous and embrace a wide range of accomplishments and professional growth. She lists three particularly satisfying career highlights: leading the revitalization of UMOPC, being active with the Michigan Orthotics & Prosthetics Association (MOPA), and spearheading the 9,000-square-foot renovation and expansion of UMOPC in 2012 along with the center's 100-year anniversary celebration.

In 1992, UMOPC was underperforming and stagnant when Liberman-Lampear was approached by the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R) Department chair. "I was asked if I could help turn it around" she says. "It needed some fresh blood and someone to come in and see if we could make it successful and financially viable again" Liberman-Lampear didn't know much about the O&P profession at the time, she recalls, but she plunged right in. "I did an assessment and realized, 'I can do this!' So I went back to the PM&R Department chair and said in so many words, 'Here's my assessment—can I take it over?'"

After assuming the department administrator position, she spent the first year traveling through the state introducing herself to O&P facility owners and learning about the profession and business. She also hired a consultant and became involved with MOPA.

The revitalization has been successful—the center has grown from 18 employees to 56, along with four residents. "Taking a unit that was under par and having some issues, getting everyone on board, and making it successful was exciting" Liberman-Lampear says. "I feel honored that the University of Michigan Health System respected my skills and gave me the opportunity. It wasn't just me alone— there are a lot of wonderful people who did more—but being able to serve as administrative director and take the lead was very gratifying."

Liberman-Lampear's leadership in building a new culture and increasing operational efficiency has also helped the center become a more integral part of UMHS.

"We are very much part of the university health system now; but when I first started, we were just sort of an appendage and people weren't using us," she says. "We do all the inpatient care now and provide services in half a dozen or more clinics within the university system. Whenever opening a new set of clinics somewhere is considered, O&P is part of the program" For example, O&P is also part of the new University of Michigan (U-M) Comprehensive Musculoskeletal Center, which brings all the musculoskeletal specialties together and currently provides care at 22 UMHS facilities in Ann Arbor and southeastern Michigan.

Since the revitalization, UMOPC has also yielded professional contributions to O&P in the realm of research and education. These include staff member participation in research grants, and authoring of research papers, book chapters, and textbooks, such as Prosthetic Restoration and Rehabilitation of the Upper and Lower Extremity, co-authored by Alicia Davis, MPA, CPO, FAAOP; Catherine Spires, PT, MD; and Brian Kelly, DO, associate professor, medical director, orthotics and prosthetics, PM&R services, that was published in late 2013.

While Liberman-Lampear became associated with MOPA during her UMOPC revitalization efforts, her involvement deepened during the course of her career. "I started some education programs with MOPA and was the Medicaid liaison for a dozen years representing the field" she says.

Liberman-Lampear holds a bachelor of science degree in medical technology from Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan, and a master of arts in management and supervision - allied healthcare administration from Central Michigan University, Mt. Pleasant. She began her career with the U-M Medical Center, Ann Arbor, as a research and medical technologist in 1970, later becoming its blood bank supervisor. In 1982, she was named administrative coordinator of the Pathology Department, which she says was an especially exciting time since the university was building a new hospital. She was involved in design project coordination, facilities development, telecommunications, construction, and capital equipment, as well as being the move/activation administrator. This was the first of several building and renovation projects Liberman-Lampear was involved in as the medical center continued to grow and develop. Later she moved over to the PM&R Department as assistant department administrator, eventually assuming her current position as administrative director of UMOPC. She says she found the 9,000-square-foot renovation and expansion of UMOPC, which she planned, designed, and oversaw in 2012, particularly gratifying. That year also marked UMOPC's 100th anniversary; Liberman-Lampear led the anniversary celebration with an open house, marketing efforts, and an educational seminar. Another distinguishing feature of the UMOPC renovation was the application of lean design and process principles Liberman-Lampear had first begun implementing at the center in 2006, an experience she had later shared at the 2008 AOPA National Assembly and other venues.

UMOPC practitioners who assisted with the extensive 2012 renovation, from left with Liberman-Lampear: Chuck Greene, Jeff Wensman, and Brian Kelly.

Liberman-Lampear has made more than 20 presentations at professional organization conferences and meetings and has written several articles. She has served on a variety of hospital and healthcare boards and committees, including in areas such as construction projects, total quality management, cost reduction, marketing, and leadership, as well as on the AOPA board of directors and its various committees.

Liberman-Lampear poses with her daughter, Sara, with the new Big Ten Hockey tournament trophies at Yost Arena, Ann Arbor.

She Keeps Going and Going

One might think, with such a busy professional schedule, that Liberman-Lampear would have almost no time for anything else, but she does. "I'm an Energizer bunny sort of person" she laughs. She is involved with boards and committees outside of O&P and healthcare, including with the Beth Israel Congregation, Ann Arbor; U-M's Mentorship Program; and U-M's Dekers Blue Line Club, which supports the men's varsity hockey team. Liberman-Lampear and her family are avid hockey fans; she is a past president of the Dekers club and cohosts its annual banquet. She and her husband, Alan, have a daughter, Sara, and a son, Ari. "We're a close family, and they are very understanding and supportive about my work" she says.

She and Alan enjoy gourmet food and wine. "We're known among our friends as wine-and-foodie types" she says. She also enjoys quilting and reading, and recently helped with a scrapbook her daughter created. "She likes my handwriting better than hers," she jokes. "And I've got a couple of quilts waiting for me to finish."

AOPA Leadership

Liberman-Lampear regards her work on the AOPA board of directors, including her current leadership role, as a major achievement. She is the second of only two women presidents in the organization's nearly 100-year history; the first was Mary S. Dorsch, CPO, in 1971-1972. Further, 2014 marked a notable occurrence for women in O&P; for the first time, three major O&P organizations were concurrently headed by women presidents or chairs: Liberman-Lampear; Michelle J. Hall, CPO, FAAOP, president of the American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists (the Academy) until the current president began his term in July; and Arlene Gillis, MEd, CP, LPO, FAAOP, chair of the National Commission on Orthotic and Prosthetic Education (NCOPE).

"I've learned so much and met so many fabulous people," Liberman-Lampear says. "We have an incredible board, and I want to say thanks to the AOPA staff for all they do to make it feasible to be an officer in such a large organization…"

She continues, "This has been a particularly challenging year for the O&P field—one of the most challenging of all the years I've been on the board. It's been nonstop, one thing after another—RACs [Recovery Audit Contractor audits], bundling of post-acute care, prior authorization." She adds, "We have to be prepared and work together as a team; it's not just a one-person effort."

Challenges

Among the major challenges currently confronting O&P, according to Liberman-Lampear, is "getting CMS [Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services] to recognize practitioners and their notes as part of the medical records and learning to respect that we're not DME [durable medical equipment providers]. They have never given us the respect of who we are and what we do. To them, we're just suppliers." She adds, "I understand that everyone wants to save money, but a study of Medicare data shows that O&P is a necessary service and does save money" (Editor's note: For more information, read "The Dobson DaVanzo Report: What It Says and Why It Matters" in the February issue of   The O&P EDGE.)

Private payers seem to be more knowledgeable about the need for O&P services in many aspects, Liberman-Lampear says. However, she does see some hope with CMS. "When it's convenient, CMS likes to lump us together with DME, but I think that they're doing better in understanding that we're well educated and that we're not just providing a bed or a bedpan, but rather we're providing a service that takes a certain level of skill and education."

Rules and audits are another issue. "They just don't stop! Every time you turn around, there's another rule coming out. Is this CMS' way of cutting costs? I don't know" She says, "I wish I could go and testify before CMS or chat with them about what we do" Some new legislative efforts may give some relief from the increasing regulatory burden on O&P, she notes.

In Michigan, the situation has been different, at least with Medicaid, she says. "The O&P field has had some really good friends in Medicaid, and they realized they were losing providers because [Medicaid was] paying us so little that only a few providers could afford [to provide the care]" Michigan Medicaid understood and appreciated what O&P does and that it improves quality of life and thus increased reimbursement levels, she continues. "They save money because people don't develop all the other physical and psychological issues involved from just sitting around and being unable to work."

Bidding too low just to win insurance contracts has hurt the profession, Liberman-Lampear says.

"We've undermined ourselves, and now we're fighting for every dollar we get. I've been opposed to it ever since it started in the '90s, thinking O&P is making a huge mistake and it's going to come back and bite us in the neck."

Another trend she sees is the consolidation of businesses— largely due to pressure from RAC audits and other issues—since small businesses often don't have the resources to stay afloat.

Future Outlook

When asked what she would like to see in the future, Liberman-Lampear says she would like to see a positive resolution of the previously mentioned issues confronting O&P.

"I'd like to see people come together in a new and different way and look at ourselves as a series of organizations representing one field…As organizations we need to ask, 'What should we look like going into the future? Are we doing the right thing in the way we're operating now? Are there things we could be doing to be more efficient for our membership?'

"I really do think the O&P world we're looking at today won't look like the O&P world in ten years" she says. "The organizations need to help our memberships so that we're strong and still providing services in the future, although we may have to do this with new models of service."

She continues, "We need entrepreneurs. This country is built on entrepreneurship—it's what makes the United States of America what it is today; it's the basis of our entire economic and financial structure." However, individuals and organizations also need to work together to meet changing times and challenges, she notes. "We need to look at who's out there providing what services, and the organizations need to look at how we operate and perhaps set up a better system of operating together and helping the smaller entrepreneurial businesses stay afloat" There is plenty of room for both types: larger companies and university systems, and small businesses, Liberman-Lampear points out.

"We need to work together to see what possible new models would look like and to develop those models so that we're here—and will be here for the next 100 years too."

Miki Fairley is a freelance writer based in southwest Colorado. She can be contacted via email at