AOPA 2016: Lighting the Future

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By Laura Fonda Hochnadel
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On the cusp of a centennial celebration, the 99th National Assembly of the American Orthotic & Prosthetic Association (AOPA) was held September 8-11 in Boston. More than 2,200 O&P professionals and allied healthcare colleagues convened for educational and networking opportunities and to see the latest advances in O&P technology and materials. This year's theme, "Lighting the Future," had a visual representation of a lighthouse emitting a focused beam. As lighthouses offer a pathway for ships on stormy waters to find their way, the National Assembly and AOPA offer a path for the O&P industry.

"We must make a conscious decision to not allow the profession and industry to be defined or divided because of the challenges we face within this difficult climate," said AOPA president James Campbell, PhD, CO, FAAOP, during Friday's opening remarks.

With those words, Campbell introduced a recurring message of the Assembly: the importance of working as a group to ensure O&P's sustainability. Former Nebraska Senator Bob Kerrey reiterated this message in his keynote speech during which he discussed the Draft Local Coverage Determination (LCD) for Lower Limb Prostheses that was introduced by the four Durable Medical Equipment Medicare Administrative Contractors in July 2015 and the Prosthetic and Orthotic Care Modernization Act of 2016 that was drafted during April's Policy Forum and presented during the scheduled congressional visits. Regarding the LCD, Kerrey said, "I don't think anything is in limbo.... You have to push hard to keep this issue on the forefront of Congressmen's minds." And about the P&O modernization act, he said, "You have to be persistent. Keep the message short and sweet." He urged attendees to contact their representatives and look for opportunities to get the bill attached to another resolution that they know will be passed. "They will say it can't be done, but it can," Kerrey emphasized.

Many of the sessions and lectures carried the teamwork-for-sustainability message as well, such as "Modeling Good Behavior. How You Can Help Create a Model System of Interdisciplinary Amputee Care," "The Role of the Prosthetist in Promoting Evidence, Documentation, and Patient Self-Advocacy to Ensure Access to Prosthetic Devices," and "Business Solutions for Today's O&P Executive." Other take-home messages included the importance of clinicians using evidence-based outcomes in their clinical practices and conducting and disseminating research.


From right, Campbell introduces Kerrey at Friday's opening session. Photographs courtesy of Laura Fonda Hochnadel.

Saturday's events started with the AOPA business meeting and the annual awards presentation. This year's Lifetime Achievement Award, given to individuals who have made significant contributions to O&P, was presented to Thomas Watson, CP. The Thranhardt Lecture winners were Kenton Kaufman, PhD, PE, and Beatrice Janka, MPO, CPO. Molly McCoy, CPO/L, won the Sam E. Hamontree, CP(E), Business Education Award. The Ralph R. "Ronney" Snell, CPO, FAAOP, Legislative Advocacy Award was given to three individuals: Ralph W. Nobbe, CPO; Scott Schneider; and James O. Young Jr., CP/L, FAAOP.

New this year, and also held on Saturday, was the Women in O&P Leadership Forum Luncheon, featuring five speakers: Marita Dorsch-Carozza, CP, FAAOP; Pam Lupo, CO; Traci Dralle; Eileen Levis; and Rick Riley. Sponsored by Townsend Design and Hanger Clinic, the venue offered women in O&P, no matter their roles, an opportunity to network and learn from other women in the profession. While numbering fewer than men, Dorsch-Carozza assured the attendees that women have been involved in the O&P profession since its early roots. In fact, her mother, Mary S. Dorsch, CPO, is credited as the first woman to be certified in the profession and was the first woman president of AOPA (1971-72).

AOPA will hold its second World Congress September 6-9, 2017, in Las Vegas.