Dr. J. Chad Duncan to Lead New Orthotics and Prosthetics Program
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Dr. J. Chad Duncan to Lead New Orthotics and Prosthetics Program

J. Chad Duncan, PhD, CRC, CPO, already had a pretty good job. But he believes he has found one that is even better. 

Until recently, Dr. Duncan was the director of the Prosthetics and Orthotics (P&O) program at Northwestern University in Chicago. The Northwestern P&O program is the oldest and one of the most distinguished programs in the country. 

Dr. DuncanBut as of September 2021, Dr. Duncan joined Salus University as the first director of the University’s newly established Orthotics and Prosthetics (O&P) program, slated to accept its inaugural cohort of students in the Fall of 2022. (So, there’s no confusion, Salus has chosen to call its program O&P and not P&O like Northwestern.) 

The opportunity to build an O&P program from the ground up is what attracted Dr. Duncan to Salus. “In higher education, that is a rarity — to be able to build something from scratch. That really attracted me,” he said. 

The other attractive aspect is moving back east gets him closer to his wife’s family, who hails from Pennsylvania, about two hours from Philadelphia. In addition, the kindness of the faculty here at Salus and the interprofessional education approach made the position even more desirable.

A native of Alabama, Dr. Duncan attended Auburn University where he graduated in 1995 with a degree in Rehabilitation Services. He completed a practicum in O&P while there, liked it, and started working as a technician in the field during his undergraduate years. After graduating, he went to Northwestern’s certificate program for his P&O training. After practicing for seven years, he enrolled at Auburn, where he earned a Master of Science in 2006 and a Doctorate of Philosophy in 2008. After completing his doctorate in rehabilitation, he took a teaching job at the University of Maine at Farmington. He left Maine to start a graduate P&O program at Alabama State University before arriving at Northwestern in 2016. 

Dr. Duncan has been a licensed prosthetist and orthotist in Alabama and is a certified prosthetist and orthotist, by the American Board Certification since 1998. 

The new Salus O&P program will be the 15th in the country by the end of 2022. 

Among his many duties — which he started even before he arrived on campus — was developing the program’s curriculum and making connections within the University to create an interdisciplinary model. He’s also recruiting faculty and reaching out to the O&P community in the Philadelphia region. 

“Part of the uniqueness of the Salus program is our residency structured within our education and developing that to maximize students’ learning and being prepared to go out into the field,” said Dr. Duncan. “I really need to make sure our clinical pathways are sound and the students are getting the best guidance and development during an important period of their growth as clinicians.” 

Dr. Duncan said he is confident the program will be able to recruit top students and faculty because the Philadelphia region includes top universities that provide rich ground from which to recruit both. He said a lot of exercise science; biomedical and mechanical engineering students are attracted to O&P programs. 

The goal for the Fall of 2022 is a maximum of 24 students with a faculty of four, which will include Dr. Duncan. The O&P program will be part of the College of Health Sciences, Education and Rehabilitation (CHER), which recently received a $750,000 Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) grant to be used primarily toward renovating O&P labs at the Elkins Park, Pennsylvania campus. 

James Konopack, PhD, dean of CHER, said the University had been looking at establishing an O&P program for some time and now that has become a reality with the addition of Dr. Duncan. 

“Dr. Duncan has experience as a program director and experience with the accrediting body, the National Commission on Orthotic and Prosthetic Education (NCOPE). That’s part of the reason why he was the choice candidate to lead this program,” said Dr. Konopack. “We really needed someone who was a standout leader in the field and that’s what Dr. Duncan brings.” 

During his leisure time, which of course is limited when one is trying to start a new program from scratch, Dr. Duncan is big into hiking and kayaking. He’s also a do-it-yourselfer and likes to tinker with various projects. Family is important to him, and now that he is closer to his wife’s family’s farm, he also hopes to hop on a tractor from time to time and tool around the farm.

“Salus’ interdisciplinary structure with Occupational Therapy and the relationships with the local Physical Therapy programs is going to be really ideal for this O&P program. Even the Physician Assistant Studies program is pulling from those educators and the collaboration between faculty and students is really important,” said Dr. Duncan. “That will allow our students to be better clinicians when they go out into the field, to have more confidence and interact with people in other allied health professions.”