Inaugural Fellow Nicole Ver Kuilen

June 4, 2018

Dear NAAOP members:

It has been said that education is the greatest gift we can give to the next generation, a gift so powerful that it has the potential to change the world. I’m on my fourth day shadowing Peter Thomas as NAAOP’s inaugural health policy and advocacy fellow, and I have already witnessed the fruits this fellowship will bring for me and, hopefully, other fellows for years to come.

For 31 years, NAAOP and its committed membership have advocated on behalf of the O&P community, unifying our advocacy and policy efforts to benefit patients like me, who at 10 years old did not have a voice in my care. Now, the charge is ready to be handed to the next generation. This fellowship is a critical part in bridging that hand-off, developing future leaders in the O&P field. I’m excited, and honored, to be part of this endeavor.

Thanks to many of you, I will have some transformational experiences packed into 10 short weeks in NAAOP’s national office in Washington, D.C., as well as the opportunity to travel to:

  • Stokosa Prosthetic Clinic, American Prosthetic Institute, Karoub Associates, and Michigan O&P Association in Okemos, MI, hosted by NAAOP board member and past president, Jan Stokosa, with a special kick-off celebration at his home.
  • Children’s Hospital of Atlanta (CHOA) O&P program in Atlanta, GA through the generous support of ABC, with extensive help from Cathy Carter and Steve Fletcher.
  • Hanger Clinic’s headquarters in Austin, TX, hosted by NAAOP board member Maggie Baumer, where I will be exposed to leading research, outcomes measurement, patient experience, compliance, and the peer visitor program.
  • OPGA in Cedar Falls, IA, hosted by NAAOP board member Todd Eagen.
  • Amputee Coalition’s National Conference in Tucson, AZ, where I will have the opportunity to attend and speak on a panel, hosted by the Amputee Coalition and President Jack Richmond.

Throughout the summer, I will also have the special opportunity to meet the staff and learn the organizational history of the O&P Alliance, including site visits to BOC, ABC, AOPA, and AAOP, as well as NCOPE. Thanks to Ted Kennedy, Jr., I will also have the opportunity to network with other disability interns and learn about the history of the disability rights movement through the American Association of People with Disabilities’ (AAPD) Summer Internship Program. I will also be exposed to countless visits to Capitol Hill, congressional hearings, coalition and think tank meetings, as well as learning state-based and federal public policy.

This line-up is truly incredible. To have such an extensive fellowship program developed in its first year is a testament to the dedication and vision of NAAOP. And it would not be possible without the generous financial commitments from Jan Stokosa, CP, Stokosa Clinic; Todd Eagen, OPGA; Vinit Asar, Hanger; Michael Rayer, Prosthetic Innovations; Claudia Zacharias with BOC; and the very first contributor to the NAAOP fellowship, Dena and George Breece.

I am incredibly grateful to carry the torch as the first NAAOP fellow, to lay a strong foundation for this program. The impact of this fellowship will only continue to multiply for the field, if we choose to invest in the leaders of tomorrow. Thank you for investing in me, and this fellowship for years to come.

In gratitude,
Nicole Ver Kuilen

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