Life’s Interruptions and Course Changes

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From left: Second-year MSPO student Ron Roiz, Chelan Pedrow, and first-year MSPO student Missy Malkush on Chelan's last night in Georgia.
From left: Second-year MSPO student Ron Roiz, Chelan Pedrow, and first-year MSPO student Missy Malkush on Chelan's last night in Georgia.

I would often sit atop the loft bed in my spacious dorm room at Georgia Tech studying late into the night. While there was much of Atlanta I wanted to explore, Calli, my roommate and classmate, set a strenuous study pace for herself, and I attempted to keep up. The two of us spent many quiet nights speed-reading textbooks, sometimes requiring bags of low-fat popcorn and cans of diet Dr. Pepper as motivation before attacking one more reading assignment out of the never-ending stack. Only the fury of a Georgia thunderstorm rolling through the area could lure us to the living room window where, with our noses pressed against the glass, we would stare at the deluge of rain and the lightning that ripped open the sky. Otherwise, our noses were glued to the various books that explained the intricate details of casting, gait analysis, biomechanics, and medical pathologies.

That cumbersome pathology book captured my attention from the very beginning. The detailed content dared even the most studious of students to memorize its pages. At first, the information describing symptoms and signs, etiologies, and prognoses were merely facts to grasp and memorize, but as the semester progressed, and I logged rotation hours at the various clinics of the Atlanta Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center, I began to meet real people who suffered physically with these black-and-white facts. While the VA population consists of patients from every walk of life and every social and economic status, the common thread is that each life had been interrupted by illness or trauma. All had found themselves lying on their backs in a sterile white bed while the world outside continued on without them. Although I had never personally experienced this situation, as a prosthetist/orthotist my job was to help these individuals and their families accept and overcome life's interruptions.

Patient-Student Interaction

The curriculum at the Master of Science in Prosthetics and Orthotics (MSPO) program at Georgia Tech places a high value on patient-student interaction, allowing those of us who have never dealt with the tragedy of interruptions an opportunity to understand the gambit of emotions seen during the illness and rehabilitation period. Within many MSPO classes, patient models from the community, Georgia Tech, and the Atlanta VA volunteered to participate in mock interviews and assessments. As a class we stepped through the process of obtaining the pertinent details of the pathology and/or sustained trauma while gaining rapport with the patient. As stated in the goals of the program, the purpose is to equip its students to take an interdisciplinary role as a healthcare provider, scientist, engineer, and medical specialist to lead patients and their families through the rehabilitative process. This unique vision is built upon a strict adherence to the concepts of organized problem solving and algorithms for investigating problems, all building toward evidence-based practice within the clinic.

Quality Research

Throughout the four semesters, a strong emphasis is placed on bolstering the integrity of the science behind O&P practices by expanding the body of evidence through quality research. The program intertwines research and class work within the very first months of classes. During a seven-week mock research project in the first semester, the professors expect the tough questions to be considered and top-notch techniques to be applied in order for us to produce quality data and conclusions. Students are then expected to take these principles and apply them to our thesis-type research project during the subsequent semesters.

A New Course

As for me, I am experiencing my own life interruption and, in turn, am making a course correction. As a result of the quality of the MSPO program, its emphasis on interdisciplinary education through patient interaction, and the many required hours of clinical rotations, opportunities totally unexpected opened before me. I discovered that my calling is the "healing" side of the medical equation rather than rehabilitation. As a result, I am leaving the program to pursue a different emphasis within the healthcare field. Therefore, this is the last education column that I will contribute to The O&P EDGE on behalf of the Georgia Tech MSPO program, but I continue to be a solid advocate for the vision of Chris Hovorka, CPO; Rob Kistenberg, CP, FAAOP; and Rob MacDonald, RTPO (c); and the MSPO program, for I have experienced their phenomenal dedication and drive to push O&P education to the highest possible quality.

Education Update chronicles the experiences of a graduate student in the MSPO program at the School of Applied Physiology at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia.

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