During the construction of the new Orthotics and Prosthetics (O&P) lab in the spring and summer months of 2022, Salus University president Michael H. Mittelman, OD ’80, MPH, MBA, FAAO, FACHE, would walk through the area every week to watch the progress.
The area being transformed into O&P labs was the same space that had housed Dr. Mittelman’s office on the Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, campus for many years. But moving his desk did nothing to dampen his enthusiasm and anticipation for the University’s newest program expansion.
“I couldn’t wait to hear all those machines going and to watch the dust fly a little bit,” he said. “That told me we were actually moving forward with this.”
And now O&P is a reality at Salus. The new lab was ready to go when the first cohort of students showed up for the fall 2022 semester.
It was the culmination of years of planning and development and the hard work of a lot of people. But now Salus has the 14th O&P program in the United States and is one of only three in the northeast portion of the country.
Discussions on offering an O&P program initially started in 2018. University officials completed a market analysis, looking at competition and healthcare demands before settling on O&P.
“Unfortunately, because of the diabetic epidemic that we have in the country today and because one of the complications for diabetics is amputations, we realized that there is going to be a great demand for people who make prosthetics and orthotics,” said Dr. Mittelman.
Not only that, but O&P fit in perfectly with the mission at Salus. All of the University’s programs have a rehabilitation aspect to them, and O&P is no different.
Initially, administration officials started their research into O&P by doing site visits to the top three O&P schools in the nation — Baylor University in Texas, Loma Linda University Medical Center in California and Northwestern University in Illinois.
It was at Northwestern that the Salus contingent met the O&P program director, J. Chad Duncan, PhD, CRC, CPO, who impressed administration officials with his experience and ability to start and develop O&P programs. He was the guy they wanted to build the new Salus program.
“We consequently persuaded him to come our way. It took some doing, but we’re very lucky and happy to have him here,” said Dr. Mittelman.
Dr. Duncan started his new role at Salus in September 2021.
In addition, Salus also received a $750,000 Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) grant from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to complete the lab renovations.
The program officially launched August 15, 2022, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The inaugural class, which includes 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. Starting next year, the program will increase to 24 students.
The goal is to build an outstanding program that’s different from any other program in the country, said Dr. Mittelman, which Dr. Duncan and his faculty have done.
“When the accreditors came and looked at us, they saw exactly that, not only in the lab design but in the curricula design,” said Dr. Mittelman. “They left telling us that they felt that this program was going to be the one that leads the entire profession to its next step of excellence.”
Antonio Butler ‘25OP comes from a family of orthotists and prosthetists. His father, Larry Butler, has been a practicing O&P in Memphis, Tennessee for more than 20 years.
So it seemed like a natural progression for Butler when he was accepted into the inaugural cohort for Salus University’s Orthotics and Prosthetics program.
“I’ve been in the field almost since I was born, in the lab setting, the clinical setting. It was easy to figure out what I wanted to do professionally,” said 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.”