NAAOP’s Executive Director and General Counsel, George Breece and Peter Thomas, participated recently in a two and a half day leadership conference in Chicago organized by the American Orthotic and Prosthetic Association and attended by many business, clinical, research and education leaders in the O&P field, nearly 75 people in all. The Summit was the first of its kind since 1987 when a similar strategic planning session was held.
While many important leaders in the field were not in the room, the participants consisted of a diverse cross-section of the field of orthotics and prosthetics, which lead to a rich dialogue on the pressing issues of the day. A main topic of discussion focused on the need of the O&P field to have a consistent, unified voice when representing the field to others. The O&P Alliance, which was formed earlier this year and functions as an informal government relations coalition between AAOP, ABC, AOPA and NAAOP, was seen as an effective force and a significant step forward.
With the help of a top-notch facilitator, the group discussed a variety of priority topics in both breakout sessions and as a full group, moving toward a consensus agenda for the future. Priority topics included the need to promote outcomes based research as well as technology R&D, ensure that Medicare regulations properly link payment to provider qualifications, and ensure that education requirements lead the field to new and higher levels of competence.
One of the many highlights of the conference was the closing speaker, Tammy Duckworth, former Democratic candidate for Congress in a suburban Chicago district. Tammy narrowly lost her House race in a Republican-leaning district on election day. Tammy spoke of her experience being shot down while piloting a Black Hawk helicopter in Iraq. After losing her legs (AK/BK) and the partial use of one arm, she received her rehabilitation and prosthetic care at Walter Reed Army Hospital. Tammy challenged the group to think in new ways about serving the needs of injured veterans and pledged to work hard in the future to secure additional funding for O&P research and services. She also suggested that the O&P field should actively recruit from the ranks of returning veterans.
A key challenge identified during the conference was the need to follow through on the groundwork laid during the two-day session. NAAOP intends to do its part to promote the consensus themes of the conference and actively work with other partners in the O&P field to make the “shared vision” a reality in the years to come.