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Spotlighting Women in O&P: Michelle J. Hall, CPO, FAAOP; Leigh P. Davis, CPO, FAAOP
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Michelle J. Hall, CPO, FAAOP

Michelle J. Hall, CPO, FAAOP
Michelle and her husband, Bryan with their plane after flying to Mackinac Island in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Leigh P. Davis, CPO, FAAOP

Leigh P. Davis, CPO
Leigh and her husband, Eric biking the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Why did you choose this profession?

Michelle: As an engineering student, I thought that I wanted to be a sports medicine orthopedic surgeon; however, during my co-op at RUSH Presbyterinan-St. Luke's Hospital's Gait Laboratory in Chicago, IL, I had the opportunity to see a few surgeries. I decided at that time that I did not want to work as an orthopedist, but I wanted to work in a more therapeutic manner with the same patient population. Upon my return to Iowa City to complete my baccalaureate degree, I began my search for other similar careers and stumbled on the field of prosthetics. It seemed that this field complemented by biomechanics and gait analysis skills from biomedical engineering, as well as my need to help patients maintain an active lifestyle. Luckily, there happened to be an excellent O&P company in Iowa City and the rest is history. There have been times in my career, especially during school, when I considered pursuing medical school, but once I entered the clinical residency, I knew that this field was the right one for me

Leigh: I was first introduced to the field through my younger brother, Chase, who has arthrogryposis. He got his first pair of AFOs at only 3 days old! I spent a lot of time in orthotics offices as a kid. It college I studied mechanical engineering and did summer internships at Georgia Tech's Center for Assistive Technology. I worked mostly with spinal cord injury patients there, but several of my co-workers were students in Georgia Tech's MSPO program. I considered a biomechanics research career, and applied for several PhD programs following undergrad. However, with my experience in a research lab, I thought a clinical career would be better suited to my personality, as I wanted to see patients and the immediate effect O&P devices can have on their lives rather than the long-term goals of research.

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

Michelle:The patients with whom I have had the opportunity to work with and learn from has been the most satisfying aspect of my career. These people are what help me come to work daily and allow me to enjoy each day.

Leigh: Getting to know my patients and making a difference in their lives with the devices I make.

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

Michelle: The emphasis and understanding of the scientific literature has continued to increase since I entered the field. I feel that this will continue to challenge our understanding of prostheses and orthoses and how they interface with the body. This will hopefully lead to better patient outcomes.

Leigh: Even in the short time that I've been in the field, I think the focus on evidence based practice and outcomes measurement has increased.

What has been the most frustrating about this field?

Michelle: Maneuvering through reimbursement policies to help inform the patient has been frustrating. Throughout my career there have been many patients who truly needed the orthosis or prosthesis to continue their work in their own career, but their insurance policy did not cover the item. Seeing patients have to make that decision between whether they should receive our services and continue working versus not is a difficult one. Luckily, parity and other policy changes continue to be pursued by dedicated professionals in our field.

Leigh: I'm impatient to have years of experience! Over these past 4 years I have learned so much about orthotic and prosthetic treatment, and I am committed to continued learning and improving, but I look forward to the time where I have years and years of experience behind me to pull from when treating my patients.

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

Michelle: I have had the honor to receive two Thranhardt Awards (for research from the Academy and for clinical excellence from AOPA) thanks to the opportunities provided by my mentors.

Leigh: The success of the Academy's mentoring committee. It started us an idea from a few of us at Georgia Tech and has grown and shaped into a beneficial program for 90+ people.

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

Michelle: I recommend completing an internship or co-op experience while you are a student, so that you may have a better understanding of the fields of Orthotics and Prosthetics before further pursuing it. This may help you to better focus your efforts in the future. There are many ways that you may become involved with this field, whether it is as a clinician, researcher, manufacturing engineer, or a combination of these.

Leigh: Our field is a unique blend of engineering, medicine that also allows you to work with and impact people. There is no sitting behind a desk all day, but rather interacting with people and using your creativity to create devices that change people's lives.

How has your Academy membership been of value to you?

Michelle: My Academy membership has allowed me to collaborate with expert clinicians in our field, as well as to stay up to date with the current trends and research. I have met many dear friends and collaborated with several friends as a member of the Academy.

Leigh: It is a resource for clinical information both from the annual meeting and from the courses, JPO, and other content on the website. In addition, many of the Academy's programs are shaping the future of our field, and my involvement enables me to be a part of that.

How has being a mentor/mentee helped you personally/professionally?

Michelle: It has allowed me to mentor Leigh during the early part of her career and hopefully impart some wisdom from my mentors and my experiences to guide her with decision making. It has also allowed me to introduce her to other colleagues who are leaders within the field, which has provided other opportunities for her to become involved and take on leadership roles. I have also developed a cherished friendship through it all.

Leigh: In more ways that I can say. Michelle has helped me get involved in the field and the Academy by introducing me to the Academy leaders and by helping me find and get involved in committees that match my interest. With her leadership and guidance, we jump-started the Academy's committee on Women and Orthotics and Prosthetics. Her clinical experience is a resource for me with my patients and clinical decisions. She also offers an outside perspective with other work and personal challenges. We have become close friends.

Would you recommend the mentoring program to others?

Michelle: I hope to continue participating in this program and would definitely recommend it to others. I feel that there are as many experienced as there are new clinicians and researchers in our field who are looking to connect and impart wisdom or learn new ideas, respectively.

Leigh: Definitely! As someone new in the field there is nothing more beneficial than having a more experienced clinician to turn to for guidance and help.



The American Academy of Orthotists & Prosthetists
7910 Woodmont Avenue, Suite 760
Bethesda, MD 20814
(202) 380-3663