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Limb Loss Awareness Month: Meet Shirley Ryan AbilityLab's Clinical Prosthetics & Orthotics Team

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During Limb Loss Awareness Month this April, meet our Prosthetics & Orthotics (P&O) team members from throughout our sites of care!

Vari McPherson, Clinical Practice Leader - Outpatient Orthotics

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Outpatient Orthotics: Vari McPherson, CPO, Clinical Practice Leader

How did you first become involved in P&O?
In college, I was enrolled in an engineering program and worked as a swimming coach for kids training to compete in the Special Olympics. Two of the kids I coached had transtibial amputations, and I was mesmerized by their ability to move and use their prostheses in the water. They were all a lot of fun to coach and I learned from them as well.

Do you have a favorite patient population to work with?
I really like working with people with spinal cord injuries. There is a wide range of variety, and no two patients are the same.

What do you love most about working in SRAlab's P&O department?
I really like our collaboration. I like to talk through ideas, problems and solutions with my co-workers to achieve the best outcomes for patients. 

If you could have any super power, what would it be and why?
I would like to time travel, but only back in time. I am interested in historical events and inventions, and I think it would be interesting to see how it all “played out.” Traveling forward in time, however, is a slippery slope of knowledge. 

Rachel Siegal, Certified Prosthetist-Orthotist - Outpatient Prosthetics

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Outpatient Prosthetics: Rachel Siegal, CPO

How did you become involved in P&O?
In college, I was trying to figure out a career path and looking into all sorts of medical careers: MD, nursing and Allied Health therapy disciplines. I thought they all were interesting, but none really spoke to me. I had no idea that the field of prosthetics and orthotics existed until a friend of my parents connected me with the P&O clinic at the University of Michigan. I showed up for a tour, shadowed a few clinicians and instantly knew that this was what I wanted to do.

Do you have a favorite patient population to work with?
I love working with kids. When I was younger, I was always a babysitter, a camp counselor and a Best Buddies volunteer. Now, as a mom to my own kiddos, it just feels natural to continue with this population. I love building relationships with patients and their families.

What do you love most about working in SRAlab's P&O department?
I really enjoy the combination of science, patient interaction and hands-on work. Each day, I get to be involved in the scientific and medical aspects of my job, interact with new and interesting people, and build things. Every day is different and every day is exciting. We also have an excellent staff, which makes work an enjoyable place to be — which is not a small thing!

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?
There are two pieces, actually. One: You can’t control other people’s actions, but you can control your reaction to them. Second: Things don’t have to be perfect to be wonderful.

Helenlyn Popescu, Certified Orthotist - Inpatient Orthotics & Prosthetics

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Inpatient Orthotics & Prosthetics: Helenlyn Popescu, CO

How did you become involved in P&O?
I have an engineering background, and I was looking for a career where I would be able to work directly with people while also building things and using the analytical, problem-solving part of my brain. P&O is an awesome blend of art, science and patient care that you can’t find anywhere else.

Do you have a favorite patient population to work with?
One of my favorite aspects of this field is we work with a huge variety of patient populations. Each patient is so different and special — and I love the challenge of creating a prosthesis or orthosis that will meet their specific needs. The more unique and challenging the presentation, the happier I am when I get patients something they like. 

What do you love most about working in SRAlab's P&O department?
I love the open collaboration. Everyone in the department is approachable and always willing to help you learn. I love being able to work in an interdisciplinary environment — being able to share knowledge and provide excellent, cohesive care to patients.

If you could have any super power, what would it be and why?
I would want the ability to fix things that are broken just by touching them — partly because patients break things all the time  — and partly because I break things all the time!

Mia Duarte, Certified Orthotics Fitter - Inpatient

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Certified Fitter: Mia Duarte, Certified Orthotics Fitter

How did you become involved in P&O?
I once watched a movie about the world ending where one of the main characters was playing a person with an amputation who used a prosthetic. At the time, I was on track to go to Rush University’s nursing program, but that movie sparked my interest in P&O. Now, I’ve been in the field for five years, and I still can’t identify the name of the movie that changed my career! After many failed attempts of trying to look it up, I’m now convinced I may have dreamt it.

Do you have a favorite patient population to work with? If yes why?
I truly enjoy working with all my patients, but if I absolutely have to pick one, it’s the pediatric population. They are cute, blunt and always surprising, and I joke with my partner that I want a whole football starting lineup of kids.

What do you love most about working in SRAlab's P&O department?
I love my co-workers. I’ve never worked at a place where I truly enjoyed working with everyone. I can honestly say I thoroughly enjoy and care about every one of my SRAlab co-workers. They’re the best team I can have, and it’s an honor to work beside them.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?
The best advice I’ve received is to trust that everything will work out. I apply this to my life all the time, especially under stressful situations. Seeing as though I decided to drop out of nursing school before even starting because of a movie I saw, I think I am living proof of this advice: now, I work at the No. 1 rehabilitation hospital's P&O department, and I am the only person in the history of SRAlab with my job title.

Ashley Zinnamon, Certified Prosthetist-Orthotist — Homewood DayRehab Center

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Ashley Zinnamon, Certified Prosthetist-Orthotist — Homewood DayRehab Center

How did you first become involved in P&O?
P&O is personal for me. I was born with proximal femoral focal deficiency (PFFD), and my family was introduced to Shriners Children’s Hospital in Chicago, which was the only place I saw other children with physical difference. I’ve worn a prosthesis since I was walking age. However, I didn’t consider P&O as a career until my prosthetist — whom I still work with today — asked if it was something I would be interested in doing.

Do you have a favorite patient population to work with?
I can’t say that I do, I’ve worked with all ages and levels of involvement, and I enjoy working with them all.

What do you love most about working in SRAlab's P&O department?
The open communication and willingness of colleagues to work together and help each other.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?
"
Work smart, not hard."

Don McGovern, Certified Prosthetist-Orthotist — Burr Ridge Outpatient & DayRehab Center

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Don McGovern

How did you first become involved in P&O?
After I received my BS in occupational therapy, I enjoyed working with folks and the problem-solving and creative process in OT — however, I recognized strong introvert tendencies in myself. A close friend of mine was having similar misgivings, and said he was looking into going into prosthetics. I joined him in a visit to speak with a prosthetist. Soon after, I decided to enroll in Northwestern's PX program, and later orthotics.

Do you have a favorite patient population to work with?
Not really. I enjoy working with all kinds of people. I have learned so much about life from the great variety of backgrounds I have come in contact with.

What do you love most about working in SRAlab's P&O department?
Here at the Burr Ridge location, there is a sense of camaraderie and team approach to patient care. I truly work with some of the very best human beings I have ever known. We constantly bring out the best in each other. I love my coworkers!

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten? 
We are here to awaken from our illusion of separateness.

If you could have any super power what would it be and why?
My super power would be to eliminate all suffering from all beings. And I would make it so.  May all beings be free from suffering.

John T. Frederick Jr., Certified Prosthetist-Orthotist — Burr Ridge Outpatient & DayRehab Center

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John T. Frederick Jr., Certified Prosthetist-Orthotist — Burr Ridge Outpatient & DayRehab Center

How did you first become involved in P&O?
I was looking to make a career change and was interested in healthcare because I wanted to directly help people. At the time, I had no idea that P&O even existed as a profession! While shadowing a physical therapist, I stumbled across a P&O clinic. Once I saw P&O used a combination of treating patients, problem solving and working with your hands, I was hooked.

Do you have a favorite patient population to work with?
At Burr Ridge, I treat a mix of pediatric and adult patients, which is a good balance for me. When I worked in inpatient, I enjoyed seeing the progress and recovery of patients recovering from stroke, and helping them by providing AFOs for them to do therapy safely.

What do you love most about working in the O&P department SRALab?
The people. My colleagues and I always share about difficult cases and celebrate when things go well. I also really love being part of the interdisciplinary team and collaborating with therapists and physicians.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?
It's two, actually. One, whatever it is, it can almost always be fixed in Orthotics. And two, when you’re working on something and a part drops, don’t try to catch it! Let it fall, step back and then look on the ground for it.

Kenneth Boggs, Certified Orthotist — Glenview DayRehab Center & Flagship Hospital

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Kenneth Boggs, Certified Orthotist – Glenview DayRehab Center & Flagship Hospital

How did you first become involved in P&O?
After I graduated from Southern Illinois University with a degree in industrial design, I was putting together my portfolio and looking for temporary work for the summer. I answered an ad looking for a P&O tech — I had never heard of P&O then, but the only requirement was having hand skills and I had made 3D models in school. After that first job, I got very interested in the field. I worked for several years as a technician, then went back to school to become a clinician. I never did finish that design portfolio.

Do you have a favorite patient population to work with?
Seeing how pediatric patients adapt to their own situations can teach us adults a lot. I just love getting in the frame of mind to communicate with them, and never tire of the unique worldview of fresh young minds.

What do you love most about working in SRAlab's P&O department?
The support and companionship of my colleagues is the best aspect of working here. There is always someone to bounce an idea off of, and because we are creative people, there is very little judgment. We have some very open minds always looking to learn more.

If you could have any super power what would it be and why?
Hands down, it would be the ability to duplicate myself. There are always more projects I could be doing, and then I could dump the boring work on my clone!

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