Chad DuncanIn this podcast, we talk with Chad Duncan, PhD, CRC, CPO, chair of the new Orthotics and Prosthetics (O&P) Program at Salus University. With a fall 2022 program launch date, he talks to us about what the program will be like and what students will get out of it.

Q: What will be the academic timeline for the O&P Program? What will it look like at Salus?

Duncan:
The first 16 months of the program is what we would call the didactic classroom approach, with our labs and field observation, and where we get to learn how to make the orthoses and prostheses. After those 16 months, then you go into the second phase of the program, the clinical residency, which is 18 months that ties into our accrediting body's requirements. Once you finish those 18 months, you can sit for your national certification boards.

O&P lab under constructionQ: What type of facilities will the O&P Program have and how will students be able to utilize it?

Duncan:
So, this is the exciting part of the program. We're building out a new lab and we'll have this very open-concept approach lab, in the context that there's a lot of light and a lot of moving around space to allow students to really learn and develop themselves as budding practitioners. We have a space, what we call the clinical excellence room, which is where students will start learning advanced skills and working with individuals. But at the same time, it's very open, and that  allows faculty to see what's going on and for the students to be aware. Then outside of that, as I've come to get to know Salus, there's a lot of other open spaces on campus to allow students to either take a break or refocus. And then we have some really nice clinical simulation rooms and clinical skill labs, and even nice classrooms that students can utilize.

Q: What type of students do you think will enroll in this program? What undergrad degrees might they have or what kind of students might be interested in this?

Duncan:
There will be some individuals who have what we call a second career, so they've been in a career and then they realized that they want to change and they have the background and really are excited about coming into the O&P profession. And then we have what we would consider traditional students who come directly from undergrad to our graduate program. Those students can range from psychology, kinesiology, exercise science, and then the engineerings: biomedical engineering, mechanical engineering, sometimes industrial engineering. So, it's a broad spectrum. And that's what we really look for, students from all different backgrounds so we can really have an in-depth conversation. And even sometimes students from the art arena, because there is a part of us that is artistic.

students walking on bridge outside salusQ: What do you think the biggest takeaway that these students will get out of the O&P Program?

Duncan:
I think the biggest takeaway, for me, that I hope the students will come away with is, the program's built on the premise of culture humility. And this has been around since the early 1990s. It's based off some of my rehab background too. It is really approaching the process of being an O&P professional from a holistic point of view, and seeing the individual and all the aspects of what makes up the individual that we're going to be working with. So, we're not just providing an orthosis or prosthesis, we're actually providing a service that could be lifelong, establishing the relationships and seeing what other aspects will improve somebody's quality of life. That's the big piece I want the students to come away with.

Then the second piece is that comfort level and competence in approaching what they will do when they leave here from seeing patients. Some will be fabricating, some will be using additive manufacturing, and scanning. There's a lot of pieces put into the program to support that with outside experts coming in. There's areas that we really are focusing on the faculty of certain skill sets and strengths, which will allow the students to grow.

Really, what I want them to come out with is being well-rounded so they'll be open to improve as they move forward. And then the final piece is, just being lifelong learners is key. And so, that ties back all the way to that cultural humility of lifelong learning and belonging within the profession.

Q: Is cultural humility a skill that is unique to the O&P Program? Have you learned that other programs have that, or is it something you want to really highlight that the O&P Program at Salus has?

Duncan:
It's going to be unique to Salus, seeing that we're the 14th program and the newest program currently. It's something that I've seen is needed at the other schools that I've been at. It's slowly being intertwined, but it wasn't really a part of the program. And people talk about this, but we've still been so focused on what are we going to make and how are we going to make it, and how are we going to fit it. And I'm really trying to create that next level practitioner, because as the profession moves forward, we're going to be even more into patient management and bedside manner. We really need to up our game in that particular area as a profession.

And I think this is the time to do it. It's not sort “of a moment” word, it's actually a part of Salus, because Salus is that wellbeing. So, it was a perfect match with what Salus' goals and missions are, and then where I think O&P is going. And so, to me it's exciting. We'll be the first program that this is all integrated within the curriculum, from the very first class to hopefully when they leave.

Dr. Duncan wearing hard hat examining floor plansQ: What are you most excited about for this program?

Duncan:
Just getting us started. The other piece is, I'm excited that we have an area, I'll call it like a specialty or an independent study associated with the program. And that area allows students to really hone in on areas of interest. We're starting out with three specialty areas that are very broad. One is the digital workspace. So, that could be additive manufacturing, scanning, electronic medical records, anything in the digital realm that students really want to learn more about. The second one is clinical leadership and practice management. It's really the students who want to get into more of the business side of O&P. And then the third piece is cultural humility and health disparities, which ties in with the program, but that students who really want to understand the barriers for the individuals we work with and their families from basic receiving services to insurance.

What's exciting about this is we're starting to team up with the experts out in the field who are going to be mentors during this process. So, that's why it's more of an independent piece, which is also very unique to Salus. No other program will have this. I'm hoping that'll allow students to not only take the courses that we require them to take, but allow them to grow in areas that they want to grow in. And so, when they leave here, they can be seen as starting to be those experts in those particular areas. That's really exciting to me, because just having the flexibility and know-how to do something that you really love, at the same time as going to school is I think important.

And then the other piece is, that goes along with that cultural humility, is really looking at self care and wellbeing, and really not just as an O&P professional, but as an individual. Using my life experiences, others' life experience of saying, "Hey, we're highly motivated, but we also need to take care of ourselves so we can actually take care of the people that we're serving." So, that's what I'm really excited about. And then I love the lab and I think the lab is a lot more open concept and I'm hoping that it will instill a lot of creativity and unity within each cohort that comes through. 

O&P lab under constructionI could probably go on and on about all the nuances of the program and how we're approaching things and where we're moving. We're trying to move toward the future of being aware that we are in a time of change in our profession. We have what we call our traditional way approaches, which is the way I was brought up from being a technician to a clinician, an educator, to some of the newer approaches where scanning's a part of our profession, additive manufacturing, printing, 3D printing. And how do we incorporate that? So, it's being incorporated very intentionally. When change occurs, our students can at least be aware and prepare to accept that change. 

And then finally, another exciting piece is of them reaching out to a fair amount of employers. Our residency clinical piece will have a unique aspect to it. There's three six-month rotations that students can really focus on being in an orthotist process within those rotations, and that's going to evolve over time and with student feedback.

students standing gazebo outside of salusQ: Is there anything else you would like to add about the field or the program?

Duncan:
Well, one goal is to make sure the students feel like they belong. And no matter what background they come from, what major they come from, what university they come from, or the country, even internationally, the faculty and I want them to feel like they belong to this profession. We're quite aware that the profession is changing and what the practitioners look like. And that feeling of belongingness, I think, will create a feeling of professionalism too, and will make the work experience better, their conference going experience better. With  this program and the different faculties that I'm bringing on, our interactions with our professional organizations, we really are going to push our students to be active in this process with teaming up with clinicians and presenting at conferences, and whatever that might look like.

Typically. it's going to be a poster presentation, or maybe a virtual presentation, since virtual is a big part of our field now. But I think those are what I call low hanging fruit for students and it's something that we'll help guide the students with to be successful. There's a piece where the students will be connected with clinicians. And they're going to work on something that allows people to possibly get published or really push our profession forward to show what we're doing. That's a piece that we've been intentionally working on is how do we re-create this avenue, which falls in within a particular course at the University. So, it's two courses actually.

I think the course design is exciting. It's a little different set up than the traditional schools. We have the traditional courses, but then there's these courses that are a little outside of the box. But that's what I've seen from teaching for about 12-plus years in O&P and talking with leaders in the field and listening to them saying, this is really what we want. So, just going above and beyond what our accreditation states, that's Salus O&P. I’m super excited with what the future brings and will hold for us.

For more information about the Orthotics and Prosthetics Program at Salus, you can visit salus.edu/op.