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Cara Masselink aims to maximize impact 

Cara Masselink aims to maximize impact 

KALAMAZOO, Mich. – The passion that drove Dr. Cara Masselink to pursue a Ph.D. in interdisciplinary health sciences is the same passion that will drive her leadership of the Clinician Task Force, she says. “After I was in a management position for a while, I was advocating for individual people and their needs a lot, and I wanted to make a greater impact,” said Masselink, as assistant professor in the occupational therapy program at Western Michigan University. “That’s when I started my Ph.D. and became a member of the CTF. That’s what has led me here.” Here’s what Masselink had to say about how she hopes to build on the foundation that Cathy Carver, the former executive director, built for the CTF; why she believes clinicians and providers need to communicate better; and when policy needs to be a priority. 

HME News: What do you hope to accomplish in your tenure as executive director of the CTF? 

Cara Masselink: I have some ideas and they’re still in the beginning stages, but one of them is to monitor trends across states a little more by getting additional feedback from CTF members and to find more effective ways to collaborate with Medicaid programs on issues that are coming up. I want to respond more specifically to individual public comment periods and my hope is that it won’t be me or the CTF responding, but the members in those states making an impact in that way. We have to be broader. It’s not enough to just touch Medicare. Most (of our clients) aren’t on Medicare. 

HME: As a Ph.D. and professor, where have you focused your research? 

Masselink: What I’ve found is there really isn’t enough research to make an impact on policy the way we want it. So I’m always trying to shed light on the service and delivery process. It’s a complex process, but there are some things that we can do to make it better. 

HME: What’s an example? 

Masselink: One example is communication among therapists and suppliers. I recently completed a study and submitted it for review that looks at the difference between what the therapist recommended and what the supplier delivered. Somewhere along the timeline, things are being changed. I believe we need to improve communication among therapists and suppliers, and make things more transparent.  

HME: Does a recommendation break down due to coverage and funding limitations? 

Masselink: Most of the time, yes. For the more complex, vulnerable person who needs options and accessories to function and for health and comfort, it ca an get expensive. This shows me that there is a demonstrable need for there to be a complex rehab benefit category. 

HME: There has been a lot of discussion in the complex rehab industry about the need to build the next generation of professionals specializing in seating and mobility. Since you’re at a university, I’d love your thoughts on that. 

Masselink: That’s a good question. I think it depends on the expertise of the professors teaching in the program. I teach in the OT department and I’m very focused on assistive technology. I’m teaching both AT as concept and as advocacy. I’m definitely making a stronger connection to public policy and integrating that into the coursework. OT students are focusing on the practitioner knowledge, but the policy piece, while unsexy, is really important. 


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