Barbara R. Ziegler, CPO, FAAOP
Barbara with a painted cow in Austin, Texas.
Why did you choose this profession?
In 1978, I was a material science minor at the University of Pennsylvania and spending a summer
doing research with Greiner and Saur in Philadelphia. I compared physical characteristics of
materials used at that time in orthotic practice. They used leathers for shoes,
ankle supports and Milwaukee pelvic sections. They hammered metal sheets into foot orthoses and
bent metal uprights to create lower limb and spinal devices. Thermoplastics were coming into use for
AFOs and TLSOs. It was a great experience for me and I enjoyed both the patient contact and lab time.
As I considered work options after graduation, the orthotics and prosthetics profession offered a good
way to blend my engineering background with patient contact.
What has been most satisfying about your decision to go into the field?
Someone once said, "If you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life."
I enjoy my work in orthotics. I like meeting new clients and working with them and making their
lives a little bit easier. It is always a good day when children graduate from their CRO
or when a patient enters the office in a wheelchair and leaves on his or her feet.
What has changed the most about the field since you became a practitioner?
All the advances, whether device design, materials, or technology have led us to the ability to provide
more complex devices for our clients. However, it is the research into outcomes that tells us if
we are providing the best device for the client and his or her specific needs. The current focus on outcomes
affects patient care, reimbursement, and drives further research.
What has been the most frustrating about this field?
Reimbursement issues. Whether it is obtaining fair managed care contracts,
appropriate documentation for orthoses, or keeping up-to-date on changing insurance criteria,
reimbursement issues have always been with us and will always require facilities to have someone
paying close attention to these details.
Of what professional accomplishment are you most proud?
The effort required to obtain and maintain a 510(k) from the FDA for our cranial remolding orthosis designs.
If you were speaking to high school or college students, what would you say to encourage them to choose this field?
Orthotics and prosthetics is a great career choice for you if have strong people skills, a willingness
to work with your hands, and are interested in subjects such as mechanical engineering, anatomy, and biomechanics.
It is a marketable skill, much in demand, and easily transferable to new locations.
How has your Academy membership been of value to you?
The Academy has provided most of my continuing education experiences. It keeps me up-to-date on
research and new technology. The online resources offer convenient access to information for myself
and our residents.