5 Questions With O&P News

A Conversation With Mark Muller, MS, CPO, FAAOP

In this issue, O&P News poses five questions to Mark Muller, MS, CPO, FAAOP.

Muller is the chair of the Department of Orthotics and Prosthetics at California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH). Muller joined CSUDH in 2006, and went to work developing new curricula in gait and biomechanics, along with working to upgrade all course objectives.

Before joining CSUDH, Muller worked in private practice in San Diego, served as education manager for Össur Americas and taught at Northwestern University’s O&P center. He is a past president of the American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists.

Muller earned his certificate in prosthetics and orthotics from Northwestern University, his master’s degree in instructional technology from California State University, Fullerton, and a bachelor’s degree in material science and engineering from Stony Brook University.

O&P News: What area of research in O&P most interests you right now? Why?

Muller: There are a few areas that interest me. Haptic sensor and multi-site control sources, silicone technologies and mold making, designing effective outcome measures to name a few, but I think the area I am most intrigued by is additive manufacturing.

We have been creating single unit devices, or prototypes, for so long it is amazing to me that we have not spent more time in utilizing additive manufacturing more productively. 3-D printing sintering and stereolithography are all manufacturing techniques that O&P practitioners should be utilizing to make better prototypes and add more functional cosmetic appeal to their devices.

We can use this technology to create devices more expeditiously and modify the design to provide better outcomes for the people who require our services. It should not take us 2 weeks to deliver an AFO where we used 3 pounds to 5 pounds of plaster for the positive model, a sheet of Polypro and spent 5 hours of fabrication time to create a device that might not work. We should be able to create a design, test it and see if it is right for the user, then finalize or remake it, quickly to optimize it.

Mark Muller, MS, CPO, FAAOP

The use of additive manufacturing, along with our current clinical skill, set can help us broaden of fabrication skills and maybe allow us to create better designs that are more acceptable to the user and to payer sources alike.

O&P News: What advice would you offer to O&P students today?

Muller: For today’s student, I would tell them to fail forward, meaning do not be afraid to try something. Listen and study from our current practitioners and teachers. Take their experiences and try to implement them, but do not try to regurgitate them. Be willing to make a mistake, but be smart enough to learn from your mistake so you will not do it again.

We are the problem solvers. Other health care professionals come to us when they cannot solve a problem, and it is up to us to figure the best course of action for each situation we come across. So that means no two situations will be alike. We have to be able to use all of our skills to address each problem and not be afraid to get it wrong the first time. Try and then try again until you get the best outcome. The payment will come later, which is tough to say, but if you work to make the best device you can, then you will have to fail a few times until you get it right.

O&P News: What are your hobbies outside of work?

Muller: I enjoy beach activities, fishing, snowboarding and lots of Boy Scout activities with my three boys.

O&P News: What do you enjoy doing to relax?

Muller: I enjoy activities with my family, especially my three boys. They are active and enjoy outdoor activities.

O&P News: What is up next for you?

Muller: I have been promoted to the department chair position for the CSUDH O&P program. Throughout the CSUDH history, we have never been our own department and we have never had a department chair, so this is new ground for our program.

We will begin to create new programs that will help to better define our profession. With the help of our awesome faculty, we plan to implement research platforms and outcome measures designed on a multidisciplinary level, as well as to create new programs for the assistant level, certificates in additive manufacturing, a new online master’s program and continuing education. It should be a busy few years.

Disclosure: Muller reports no relevant financial disclosures.