For her entire life, Jacalyn Harris, MPO, CPO/L has watched her father Chris Sickels, an amputee, go through various iterations of his protheses. As a result, it sparked Harris to become interested in the engineering involved in artificial limbs.
She attended an engineering high school, part of a vocational-technical system. While there, she started working as a junior technician at an orthotics and prosthetics (O&P) clinic. It was there that a passion for a career was born. And, now Harris is sharing that knowledge and experience with students as the newest member of the Salus University O&P program faculty.
“I’ve really always been interested in education. Even when I was working in the clinic, I liked to take opportunities to talk to students or some peer support groups for amputees. I liked to keep up with current research,” said Harris, who joined the University in August 2023. “It’s always been an interest of mine, and I thought when there was a new program at Salus, it would be a good opportunity for me to step into that role more prominently to work in education and be able to communicate to others what I’ve learned from the profession.”
Originally from Edison, New Jersey, Harris graduated from Rutgers University in 2016 with a degree in exercise science and sports studies. She then earned her master’s in prosthetics and orthotics (P&O) from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, in 2018.
That was where she first met Chad Duncan, PhD, CRC, CPO, who was then faculty of the P&O program at Northwestern.
“After I graduated from Northwestern, Dr. Duncan asked if I would stay and help him as a teaching assistant for one of the classes there,” said Harris. “I declined because I wanted to leave the Chicago area, come home and do my residency and I had plans to get married.”
As fate would have it, Dr. Duncan joined Salus University in September 2021 as the first director of the University’s newly established O&P program.
“I eventually did accept a position to teach with him, but he had to leave Northwestern and come to Salus,” said Harris, whose father now serves as a patient model for the Salus O&P students.
Although she’s only been with the department for a few months, Harris said one of her favorite parts are the hands-on O&P department faculty and that all of the instructors are passionate about helping students. At this point, Harris is teaching lower limb prosthetics; CASE reports I and II; introduction to O&P principles and technologies; and is also a faculty mentor for all first-year Salus students in Interprofessional Evidence Based Practice (IEBP).
When she’s not immersed in the O&P world, Harris enjoys spending time with her husband Jake and their daughter Juliet. The family enjoys outdoors activities like hiking, cooking together, and Harris is into different creative crafts such as cross-stitching.
On campus, she looks forward to being part of the community outreach initiatives in which the Salus O&P students are participating.
“They work so hard on different community programs and I’m really proud of them for that and I think it’s really important. I’m happy that the program fosters and encourages the community outreach,” said Harris.