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Spotlighting Women in O&P
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Kate Muller, CPO, FAAOP

Kate Muller, CPO, FAAOP
Kate Muller, CPO, FAAOP, her husband, Mark Muller, CPO, FAAOP, and boys Pete, Max, & Jack.

Kate Muller, CPO, FAAOP, has been in the O&P profession for 18 years. As an undergraduate, she earned dual degrees in chemistry and human biology from the University of Kansas (1993). After graduation, she moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma and worked as a prosthetic technician for nearly two years. In 1995, she completed an orthotic certificate at Northwestern University. Before residency was a requirement in the profession, she applied for and was accepted as the second orthotic resident for the University of Michigan's O&P Center. After that she returned to Northwestern to earn her prosthetic certificate in 1996.

When Kate is not working, she enjoys spending time with her family. Having three sons keeps things very busy and interesting around her house! Her family travels a lot and recently completed a nearly four-week vacation that started in Maine at Acadia National Park and ended in Yosemite National Park in California. Kate enjoys reading and has been known to devour a good book, non-stop, in a day or two. One thing most people may not know about Kate is that she is a cross-stitcher and needlepoint enthusiast and finds it quite relaxing. We recently caught up with Kate to ask a few questions.

Why did you choose this profession?

My grandfather had a woodworking shop in his basement and I really liked going down there and "helping." Even at a very young age, I enjoyed the process of designing and creating something. I also developed a familiarity with tools and machines. .

I always knew that I would get into a profession in which I could help people. I was pre-med at KU, and as graduation came closer, I decided medicine wasn't for me. But I wanted to be able to spend time with people and to really get to know them and make a difference in their lives. During my senior year at KU, I stumbled upon the topic of "prosthetics" during one of my human biology courses. The more I researched the topic, the more intrigued and fascinated I became. This profession seemed to be the perfect combination of helping people, medicine, and building.

What has been most satisfying about your decision to go into the field?

While in clinical practice, I found my niche in pediatrics where I could make a significant impact in the lives of my patients and their families. I was able to watch my patients grow, succeed and achieve milestones and accomplishments that many thought were unobtainable. I attempted to simulate that experience with my students. By sharing my clinical experiences and knowledge with them, I was able to watch these young practitioners grow, succeed, and achieve professional milestones that many of the students themselves thought were unobtainable!

What has changed the most about the field since you became a practitioner?

Today thre is a greater emphasis on education and research in O&P - these go hand in hand. Not only has the entry-level degree requirement risen to the master's level but there is now consensus that a higher standard of education will help advance our field into a true profession. We cannot truly "know" something nor can we be a true "profession" without a solid research foundation. This evolution of education and research has solidified that O&P clinicians are more than just leg or brace makers. We address the whole patient and not just a particular condition or device. Ultimately, we need to be able to justify our clinical decisions with objective, scientific data.

What has been the most frustrating about this field?

Reimbursement issues. Insurance coverage and policies are always shifting and changing, and it happens so often and quickly, that we cannot keep up with all of it. We have to rely on the residencies and the O&P businesses to teach and implement good coding and billing practices.

Of what professional accomplishment(s) are you most proud?

I have three.

Number 1: I am the most proud to have shared my passion, commitment, and knowledge of O&P with the students whom I had the pleasure to teach. I held my students to a very high standard and had very high expectations for them. I've had students go through my orthotic certificate program tell me, at the beginning, "Well, I might as well get my orthotic instruction/residency out of the way. I'll never be an orthotist because I like prosthetics so much." But, a year or two later, they'll call to tell me that they've just helped this incredible patient with this really complicated intervention or passed their orthotic boards and just love orthotics! That really makes me smile.

Number 2: Working with NCOPE as a committee member—collaborating with other O&P programs to help foster their curricula and set standards for the field that will affect future practitioners and the people they serve. NCOPE has opened up lines of communication between educators and programs that previously did not exist.

Number 3: As one of the founding members of the education committee of the Orthotic and Prosthetic Education and Research Foundation (OPERF), I have the opportunity to help other O&P educators, students, and residents enhance their knowledge and expand their research opportunities so they are able to pass on their skills to future clinicians.

If you were speaking to high school or college students, what would you say to encourage them to choose this field?

You'll really make an impact in someone's life. There is never a dull moment and it is never the same day twice. Be prepared and ready to solve complex, personal problems for others. You also have to be ready to balance the very challenging days with the very rewarding days. There are so many opportunities in the orthotic and prosthetic profession. You can eventually work as a clinician, an educator, for a manufacturer, in a design or business capacity, and the possiblity to do so internationally.

How has your Academy membership been of value to you?

My Academy membership is invaluable. It is a portal that helps keep me up to date on changes in clinical practice, research, and continuing education. It has provided me a networking avenue on a national scale. Through the Academy, I have been able to moderate presentations, assist with the development of online modules, and use the Online Learning Center (OLC) as an adjunct to my curriculum. One cannot truly be a professional without giving back and helping to advance their profession. The Academy allows me that avenue—to give back to the profession with the intention of advancing it.

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Contact

The American Academy of Orthotists & Prosthetists
1331 H Street NW, Suite 501 Washington DC, 20005
(202) 380-3663
info@oandp.org