Jack Steele, CO, LPO, FAAOP
In 2011, after working in O&P for more than 30 years, Jack Steele, CO, LPO, FAAOP, opened the Center for Orthotics & Prosthetics Inc. (COPI), Memphis, Tennessee. He sees patients, most of whom are children, at the two COPI locations, as well as at visits to outpatient clinics and to the city's Le Bonheur Children's Hospital. He says that while his career has provided many opportunities, the years have not been without challenges. He holds as his philosophy a quote from Proverbs 24:10: "He who faints in the day of adversity, his strength is small."
1. How did you become interested in O&P?
In 1980 I responded to a newspaper ad for a technician position at Snell's Limbs & Braces, Memphis, which is now a Hanger Clinic, and I was hired. A few months later, I attended a rehabilitation center's clinic for children with disabilities, and knew this was what I wanted to do. I transferred my studies from Northwest Mississippi Community College, Senatobia, to Shelby State Community College, Memphis, and enrolled in its O&P certificate program. Through the years, I rose through the ranks, eventually becoming an area practice manager. The knowledge and experience I acquired enabled me to start my own practice.
2. What has motivated or inspired you in your professional pursuits?
I was blessed in that I was able to work with some of the older generation of orthotists and prosthetists. They really showed you how to manage a patient file, from the technical standpoint all the way through the process of fitting the brace. They took the time to explain why you were doing something: Why you bend this metal this way, why you trim this plastic this way. That has really helped me in the sense of troubleshooting and of finding new ways of doing things. My greatest inspiration has been to be the best person I can be and to treat people as I want to be treated. If I can stay focused and true to these two aspects of life, everything else will follow.
3. What do you see in the future for O&P?
I think the future of O&P is at a crossroads. Decreases in reimbursements and the Recovery Audit Contractor (RAC) audits are really putting a strain on small O&P practices. I feel this is causing the profession to take a long, hard look at its viability. It's important for owners to step back and fine-tune the practice and make sure that they've got all the things they need to run a successful practice.
4. What advice would you give to someone just entering the O&P profession or starting his or her own business?
Really search your heart, because this profession is about caring and doing your very best to help people. Starting your own business is certainly a personal achievement, but you must never lose focus on patient care.
5. How do you set yourself apart from competing businesses and practitioners in your area?
Coming into the profession at the ground level, and working with some of the older mentors and leading medical professionals has provided me with a vast knowledge and understanding of patient need; servicing those needs on an individual basis has given me somewhat of an edge over my competitors.