Promoting Our Profession

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As I think back over my college and professional experiences, I realize that I have always been one to promote and recruit. When I was an undergraduate student I became involved with an organization that worked closely with the dean of my college. Our purpose was largely to support the dean of the College of Engineering by recruiting high school students, promoting the college, and soliciting donations from alumni. After I graduated and went to work for a large utility company, I immediately became involved in promoting and recruiting for that company. I was excited to tell students about the great job I had and explain why it was such a wonderful place to work. Before long, though, I found myself still recruiting but not really believing in the cause. I felt quite hypocritical, but I was committed to fulfilling my obligations as a recruiter. I realized that my own career was not living up to all of my expectations nor to the picture that I was painting for others. I did my best to promote the opportunities within the company, which were indeed good, but deep down I was pondering the realities of my own experience. The comparisons didnt exactly add up for me personally. I eventually found my way out of that career and into the O&P profession.

I arrived at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta very excited about O&P, and I found myself once again filling the roles of promoter and recruiter. During my first semester our student group, Promoting Orthotics & Prosthetics (POP), had the opportunity to participate in a campus-wide event called Disability and Diversity Week. We set up a display table, and a few of us at a time were available at the table to tell faculty and other students about the wonderful world of O&P. I was praising the glories of a profession that I was only beginning to learn about, but it felt great to realize that I did indeed believe in what I was promoting.

During the spring 2007 semester, I attended the American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists (the Academy) Annual Meeting and Scientific Symposium in San Francisco, California, with many of my classmates from Georgia Tech. While we were there we participated in the high school awareness event, which has become an annual outreach opportunity at the meeting. Approximately 60-70 local high school students in the San Francisco area were invited to spend a few hours at the conference hotel, and many students from O&P schools across the country were involved in sharing their experiences, answering questions, and showing the students around the exhibit hall.

This year at the Academy meeting in Orlando, Florida, the high school awareness event was even better than it was last year. The session was improved upon so that it was more interactive for the high school students. They were given a hands-on introduction to O&P. There were about 40 student volunteers participating from three different O&P schools. Also, several manufacturers volunteered their time and products in order to provide a variety of activities, from putting together a prosthesis and trying on orthotic devices to scanning prosthetic models in a CAD software system. Following this interactive session the students were able to follow up in the exhibit hall by looking at the specific products and technologies that interested them the most. The teamwork of everyone involved came together quite nicely, and the event seemed to be a great success for the high school students who were fortunate enough to participate.

I was a bit jealous of these high school students, realizing that I was never formally introduced to this profession but instead found it mostly by chance. I applaud the efforts of the Academy and many practitioners across the country who have made it their mission to promote and recruit for our profession. I encourage everyone who has enjoyed the rewards of working in O&P to take advantage of the many great recruiting resources that the Academy has provided in the last several years. These include a video describing the O&P profession, a downloadable PowerPoint presentation about careers in O&P, and handouts to supplement the presentation. Certified practitioners, residents, and students should all find it very easy to use these materials along with their own experiences to provide great insight and excitement about careers in O&P. I have yet to meet someone in this profession who does not love what he or she does. What better way to express that satisfaction than to tell others about career opportunities in O&P? As for me, I am enjoying the opportunity to promote something in which I truly believe.

Kristin Carnahan is a graduate student in the MSPO Program at the School of Applied Physiology at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia. She will be sharing her experiences through articles in The O&P EDGE throughout her two-year program.

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