Superheroes Among Us

Home > Articles > Superheroes Among Us
By Erin Cammarata
Erin Cammarata

We have all heard stories or seen videos of a crime being committed in which no one jumped in to help. Is it that the witnesses are horrible people? Are they so detached from reality and living through their camera phones that they don't care? Or are they waiting for someone stronger and braver to be the hero and save the day? I have come to believe that, as a society, we have become detached and rely on the superheroes of our generations to make the stand for us- people like Crystal Lee Sutton (who inspired the movie Norma Rae), Erin Brockovich, and Bono. We sit on the sidelines and cheer on our heroes and marvel at their tenacity and strength.

The O&P industry has been plodding through adversity for the past few years. Sit in a hotel coffee shop while at the American Orthotic & Prosthetic Association's National Assembly or the American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists' Annual Meeting and Scientific Symposium, and the topics of conversations are Medicare, Recovery Audit Contractor audits, and laments of a system that has gone bad. Everyone talks about these issues, but how many actually do anything about them?

We do have our own O&P superheroes. We all know them. They are the advocates-the people who shout from the rooftops and try to rally the troops. We see their Facebook posts, and maybe we share the posts to feel as though we had a hand in their heroism. Maybe you think to yourself, "Will this even matter? I am just one voice." And you continue on with your day and focus on the issues at hand that you think you have better control over.

I just described my behavior. That was my philosophy-that is, until I participated in the Durable Medical Equipment Medicare Administrative Contractors (DME MAC) open comment meeting addressing the Local Coverage Determination (LCD) Draft Policy for Lower Limb Prostheses in Linthicum, Maryland, which was followed by a rally at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services building in Washington.

My presence alone did not make a difference in the outcome of the events, but I was one of the hundreds of people who stood up for something that was bigger than any of us individually. Together we made an impact. It was an honor to be in that meeting room, among the O&P leaders, with a centered focus. We arrived early and sat through two other hearings prior to the one addressing the LCD. Then, at 9:55 a.m., the doors at the back of the room opened, and waves and waves of people came streaming in. I still get goosebumps when I think about that day. In attendance were practitioners from all over the country, as well as business owners, physicians, patients, and physical therapists. With voices and hands shaking, presenters who had never spoken in a public forum were nevertheless speaking with conviction. There were standing ovations, loud cheers, and many tears. The overwhelming response to this proposal was incredible. We still had our O&P leaders holding our hands and inspiring us to make our voices heard, but we became the Robins to Batman, rather than spectators reading about it in the Gotham City paper.

What I realized is that the O&P industry, which I chose as my profession 23 years ago, is more than just a profession. We are a community, a family with passion, focus, and a purpose. We are surrounded by heroes every day. That day in Maryland and Washington DC, when I witnessed our professionals, physicians, and patients tell their stories to the panel of DME MAC medical directors, I was inspired to get out of my comfort zone.

Whatever your original reason for entering O&P as your job or profession of choice (everyone has a story of how he or she got into the industry or heard about O&P) you're a part of this family-lean in! Get out of that comfort zone. I, for one, am no longer comfortable just being a spectator. Does this mean you have to carry a protest sign and chant? No. There were 400 people listening in on the phone for those hearings. Imagine the statement that made. There were 300 spectators in the room with only 80 speakers given the podium. That show of support shouted, "As a community, we are not going to stand down."

I'm grateful for the opportunity to have experienced this aha moment, and can promise that I will not just be sitting in the hotel coffee shop discussing the state of our industry and the unfairness of it all.

Erin Cammarata is president and owner of CBS Medical Billing and Consulting, Hampton Falls, New Hampshire. While every attempt has been made to ensure accuracy, The O&P EDGE is not responsible for errors. For more information, contact .