Flashback to circa 1952. The place is Guadalajara, Mexico, known as the most Mexican of Mexican cities and a place where authentic Mexican traditions can be experienced amidst its many attractions. In this City of Roses, Señor Rodolfo Ortiz, a prosthetist, and his wife, Señora Maria Elena Vazquez del Mercado, established their own O&P practice. Working together, they would build a business that would endure through their lifetime and be passed on to their son, Rodolfo Marlo Ortiz Vazquez del Mercado, CP(M) of Ortiz Internacional S.A. de C.V., Mexico. Ortiz is one of six children who all eventually entered the field of O&P. Little did that humble couple know how their choice to begin working in O&P would change their familys future.
Ortiz was born in Guadalajara on March 29, 1954. Graduating as an engineer in 1977, he continued taking courses in O&P until 1979. As a young man, he worked alongside his father. However, it wasn't until after his father passed away in 1983 and his mother continued running the family business until her retirement in 1995, that her encouragement convinced Ortiz to embrace O&P for himself. He became even more motivated to excel in the field when he realized he could truly help disabled people.
His parents weren't the only inspiration to further his O&P career. Ortiz notes that men the likes of Timothy Staats, EdD, CP, and the late George Irons, CP, encouraged him greatly. An important piece of Ortiz's education in O&P was attending seminars and meetings. It would seem he has a never-ending desire to absorb all he can and then put the knowledge to use by helping others. He has attended the annual national meetings of the American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists (the Academy) and the American Orthotic & Prosthetic Association (AOPA) for more than 20 years. Ortiz also has been a speaker at many seminars and meetings worldwide, including Argentina, Costa Rica, Panama, Cuba, Spain, Germany, South Africa, and the US. The University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) invited him to participate as a guest professor at its prosthetic school in 1989 and 1990. Ortiz served the Mexican Orthotic & Prosthetic Association (Sociedad Mexicana de Ortesistas y Protesistas AC [SMOPAC]) as president for two terms: 1980-82 and 1994-96.
He is always eager to learn new things and to find ways to improve on what he already knows, especially in the area of fitting prosthetic devices. Ortiz explains, "The new developments of socket designs, components, and materials since the mid-80s made it a big challenge to learn each new thing." However, he was motivated to embrace the new technology because of his keen desire to improve the lives of the people he serves. His company's goal always has been to provide services to patients with musculoskeletal system disabilities, using the most advanced technology and materials available.
M.A.S. Socket: A Revolution
That yearning to make a difference through knowledge and application led Ortiz to contribute to an outstanding development in the world of O&P in 1999. A patient's request to improve cosmesis in the transfemoral sockets led to grand things. Lowering the trim lines of the transfemoral socket, Ortiz and his team found a way to fit ischial containment sockets which ultimately led to the revolutionary M.A.S® socket design.
Life has taken on the appearance of a whirlwind since then. Beginning in 2000, Ortiz has traveled the world sharing this revolutionary technique. Helping practitioners all over the globe to better serve their transfemoral and hip disarticulation amputee patients gives Ortiz much satisfaction. Along the way he has received recognition for his achievements, including the Thranhardt Lectures Award at the 2004 Academy Annual Meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana, and the Academy's Clinical Creativity Award in March 2005. Recently, he has teamed up with Orthotic & Prosthetic Group of America (OPGA) through a series of educational seminars to bring this technology to the profession. More than 350 clinicians in the US, plus more than 200 in other countries, have been trained in the socket design--with no apparent end in sight.
|Marlo and a big marlin weighing 375 lb.|
Goals for the future are endless, but ultimately they all revolve around increasing the quality of life for amputees in the best way possible. This would include continuing to develop new techniques such as the M.A.S.® socket design. That objective goes hand-in-hand with the advice Ortiz would give others in O&P: work hard and always keep learning. He is the epitome of both. "By working hard you can be rewarded by the growth of your business," he says. "Continuing to learn and absorb new techniques is essential to being a good practitioner, along with not thinking that I know everything.'" The knowledge and skills employed by hard-working practitioners improve the quality of their patient's lives--and that is true success. Ortiz will attest to the fact that it's a fabulous feeling to know you have had a part in offering such life-altering assistance to others.
Ortiz is a charitable man as well and, as the saying goes, "charity often begins at home." He has a group of patients that are unable to pay him for his services, yet he provides them with all the prosthetic devices they need for free. One such example of his generosity and dedication is that of a couple of brothers who lost limbs in a motorcycle accident five years ago. He has supplied all their prosthetic needs since then. With his wife Carmen overseeing the administration of their company, he acknowledges that her expertise in operating their business allows them to be in the position to be able to help others.
Married to Carmen for 26 years, Ortiz and his wife can proudly reflect on all they have accomplished during their time together, not only in O&P, but also personally. Their son Marlo D'Paul is an immense source of delight as they revel in his achievements. He is finishing his last year of medical school, and he and wife Gabriela are the proud parents of an 18-month-old son, Franco Emiliano.
Ortiz also finds time to enjoy his hobby of deep sea fishing. He has participated in professional fishing tournaments, winning two cars as a reward for his "catch of the day." It is a sport he has pursued for many years with great success.
Ortiz's energy, determination, and enthusiasm for what he does are inspiring. As both a prosthetist and an engineer, he is continuously rethinking what he has already learned and accomplished, while at the same time striving to take it to the next level. Those who will follow in the path he has blazed have big shoes to fill. Knowing that practitioners like Ortiz are leading the way in improving amputee care is motivating and gratifying. All that pursue this course truly have something to aspire to and from which to learn.