Simon says: Margolis ready to lead RESNA

Saturday, August 31, 2002

After spending the better part of a year getting a firsthand glimpse into the patient side of rehabilitation, Simon Margolis is rested, recovered and ready to enter yet another distinctive phase of his noteworthy career: president of the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America.

The 25-year veteran of the rehab industry says his batteries are now fully recharged from months of cardiac rehab following a December 2001 heart attack. And while taking the RESNA helm promises to be a demanding challenge, resuming active involvement in rehab affairs will most certainly be easier than convalescence, Margolis said.

"It was very debilitating at first — I had to use an implantable defibrillator because my heart wasn't pacing properly, and then it took my body quite a while to acclimate to the meds," he said. "My wife is a PT and while she was extremely supportive, she's also a taskmaster. I now have a much better understanding of what rehab patients go through."

Although serving as president of a major association can put a lot of pressure on a person, the 52-year-old Margolis says the impending workload isn't a big concern.

"Providing leadership is time consuming, but not particularly stressful," he said. "RESNA has an active board and top-notch support staff, so they'll take care of a lot of things for me. But I'm feeling well and can go at about 90% of my old pace. It's just that now when I travel, if I'm too tired to go out for dinner, people will have to understand."

Margolis, who serves as v.p. for clinical and professional development for Nashville, Tenn.-based National Seating and Mobility is the first representative of the commercial rehab sector to be named RESNA president. Consequently, Margolis says, he is determined to forge closer ties with the academic and policy wings of the group. The goal, he says, is "to create an atmosphere where everyone can work at the same level."

W.B. Mick, v.p. of rehab sales at Sunrise Medical, is convinced Margolis can make it happen because he has worked in all areas of the industry.

"Simon has been a provider, a manufacturer and educator just to mention a few," Mick said. "He's a great spokesman."

Besides galvanizing divergent parts of the membership, Margolis wants to attract new people, including special educators and rehab engineers at the manufacturing level.

"Special educators need to become part of RESNA because they are involved in assistive technology on a regular basis," he said. "We have an industry loaded with engineers who are good at what they do, but who don't know about disabilities. Right now, they're conducting focus groups for products they've already designed. We can give them input that'll help them before they design the chairs."

Wayne Gullett, rehab applications specialist for Exeter, Pa.-based Pride Mobility, concurs that manufacturers need to become more involved with RESNA. By actively engaging with group members, the manufacturing and provider sectors can develop long-overdue product standards, he said.

Another of Margolis' priorities is to push for mandatory certification for rehab suppliers participating in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. In his home state of Minnesota, he is already involved in a petition drive called the Re/hab Technology Initative, designed to get Congress to make rehab certification a national policy. One state — Georgia — has already mandated DMEPOS suppliers be members of the National Registry of Re/hab Technology Suppliers.

"If you look at any other healthcare provider group, they must have credentials," Margolis said. "But somehow it's OK for just anybody in the DME, prosthetics and orthotics industry to provide high-end products and services. This must be reformed."

Refining RESNA's infrastructure is another item on the new president's agenda. Margolis said he intends to "fine tune and improve" changes to the association's financial procedures and to simplify "convoluted" bylaws to make it easier for volunteers to participate. HME