Seeking left-brain, right-brain applicants

Saturday, May 31, 2008

PITTSBURGH--The University of Pittsburgh wants to fill a void in the O&P field, starting this fall.

The school is awaiting final approval on its new prosthetics and orthotics degree to its Master of Science in Health and Rehabilitation program.
There’s a growing need for such programs, said Ray Burdett, acting director of the O&P program. An aging population, a growing number of war veterans and skyrocketing rates of obesity and diabetes will drive up need, and with only eight O&P programs offered nationally, a shortage of qualified professionals is predicted.

“This is for a person who likes patient interaction, but also somebody who likes to work with their hands, working with devices,” said Burdett. “It’s left-brain, right-brain.”

Along with coursework in anatomy, kinesiology and biomechanics, students will study health system issues, ethics and how disability affects individual and social experience.

“You have to understand the patient’s goals, and work with the patient to achieve those goals,” said Burdett.

While the program focuses on the clinical aspect of O&P, students will learn to evaluate the latest research. For example, at UPitt research is currently being done on the direct control of prosthetic limbs through brainwaves and nerve impulses.

“Research shows how these higher-end devices result in higher function and quality of life,” he said. “Not too many people can pay out-of-pocket, so a lot of education is trying to get insurance to pay. We need to show that more sophisticated devices are worth the money.”