It’s Now A Reality: University Launches O&P Program
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It’s Now A Reality: University Launches O&P Program

Antonio Butler ‘25OP comes from a family of orthotists and prosthetists (O&P). His father, Larry Butler, has been a practicing O&P for more than 20 years in Memphis, Tennessee.

So, it seemed like a natural progression for the younger Butler when he was accepted into the inaugural cohort for Salus University’s Orthotics and Prosthetics (O&P) program, which has now officially launched as of the fall semester of 2022.

O&P ribbon cutting“I’ve been in the field almost since I was born, in the lab setting and the clinical setting. It was easy to figure out what I wanted to do professionally,” said Antonio Butler, who earned an undergraduate degree in Exercise Science from the University of Memphis. “It hasn’t really hit me, but I’m excited regardless, even if I was in the 100th class. To be part of the first class though, it’s a piece of history.”

The program got its official launch August 15, 2022, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and tour of the new lab facilities. The inaugural class, which will include eight students, was in attendance for the ceremony, along with O&P faculty, Salus administration, faculty and staff, industry business partners and members of the community at large.

“There’s a lot of excitement and a lot of anticipation for everybody to come and see the lab,” said J. Chad Duncan, PhD, CRC, CPO, inaugural O&P program director. “It’s a really beautiful lab with a lot of light. It’s something Salus and the community can be proud of here in the Philadelphia area and will really help people embrace this program.”

Wall display of prostheticsThe Salus program is only the 14th O&P program nationwide, and one of only three in the entire Northeast region, with Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Hartford, Connecticut being the next closest.

Amber Lewis ‘25OP originally from Philadelphia and also a member of the program’s first cohort, said she loves not only the fact that O&P is an “up and coming” field, but that she gets to stay in the immediate area to further her career.

“I‘m close to home and I love the small classes sizes,” she said. She recently completed her undergraduate degree in Exercise Science at East Stroudsburg University in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. “Being among the first O&P students in the program really didn’t hit me until today (the first day of Orientation Week), when we were all sitting there. I was super-nervous at first but now I can’t wait to get going.”

Pennsylvania state Rep. Napoleon Nelson, who helped secure a $750,000 Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) grant for the O&P lab renovations in addition to the Activities of Daily Living Lab, was on hand for the ribbon-cutting ceremony and spoke on behalf of the Commonwealth.

“We're thrilled, not just for this program, but for all that you all are doing here at Salus,” said Rep. Nelson, who represents the 154th District, which includes Cheltenham, Jenkintown and Springfield Townships in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. “We’re thrilled for the way that you all care for children and seniors in our community. The way that you are providing opportunities, providing for a life for so many who are desperate is amazing.”

Dave Sen speaking at the O&P ribbon cuttingOne of the business interests associated with the new program is Hanger Clinic, who joined the O&P program in June 2022 to co-sponsor the University’s first Adaptive Sports Day. Dave Sen, business development manager and diversity inclusion ambassador for Hanger Clinic, said Hanger will support the program in multiple areas, including offering residencies and externships for students.

“The opening of this program is a big deal for the profession,” he said. “Being able to envision more clinicians because of this program is going to have a big impact (on the community at large).”

As part of the College of Health Sciences, Education and Rehabilitation (CHER) at Salus, dean James Konopack, PhD, said the program will fill the void in the educational market of the region and meet the need for more orthotists and prosthetists.

“This has been something that has been a long time coming. It’s a testament to the hard work of Dr. Duncan, his faculty and staff, but also our facilities individuals here who have done a tremendous job in setting up a world-class facility and laboratory space,” said Dr. Konopack.

People at ribbon-cutting partyHe added that while there are only eight students in this year’s cohort, starting next year, the program will increase to have 24 students. In fact, there are approximately 30 applications already in hand for those 24 spots for the next academic cycle. 

“Our healthy enrollment, the way we’ve planned if from the very beginning, is to go up to a max of 24 students per cohort,” said Dr. Konopack. “That will allow us to take students through the labs in groups of 12 when we’re at full strength. And, the lab is purposely designed with that size of cohort in mind.”

Salus president Michael H. Mittelman, OD ‘80, MPH, MBA, FAAO, FACHE, said he’s been walking through the new lab through its stages to completion and is excited to get the program off the ground. He also highlighted the outstanding program Dr. Duncan developed and how it is unique and breaks the mold from the other programs in the country. 

“When the accreditors came and looked at us, they saw exactly that, not only in the lab design but in the curricula design,” he said. “They left telling us that they felt this program was going to be the one that leads the entire profession to its next step of excellence.”