In this issue, O&P News poses five questions to Alicia J. Davis, MPA, CPO, FAAOP(D).
Davis is the president of the American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists and served on the board of directors of the National Commission on Orthotic and Prosthetic Education for 6 years.
She has lectured nationally, chaired courses, written several peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters and is an editor of “Prosthetic Restoration and Rehabilitation of the Upper and Lower Extremity.” She has worked as a clinician at the University of Michigan since 1993 and was an adjunct instructor at Eastern Michigan University’s Master of Prosthetics and Orthotics Program from 2003 to 2011. Davis is the residency program director at the University of Michigan Orthotic and Prosthetic Center.
O&P News: What are your hobbies outside of work?
Davis: A few years ago, I would have said bicycling. I raced when I was younger and still enjoy cycling year-round, even in the snow of Michigan winters on a fat-tire bike. Now it’s a 50/50 split between my new family and riding. Becoming part of a blended family when you are what some would call “middle-aged” has had a profound and positive impact on my life. For most of my life, I split my time between career and academic pursuits and cycling, but it always left me with a hole in my life. To upend my world with a teenager and a family has created a whole new chamber in my heart.
O&P News: Who has had the greatest influence on your career?
Davis: Without a doubt, the person who has had the greatest influence on my career is Denise Boyer, my eighth-grade science teacher. We were her second class in her teaching career and she was full of excitement and made learning fun. There are people in your life without whom your life would have taken a different path, and one of those for me is Ms. Boyer. She insisted you earn your grade, but along the way you learned life lessons, and the most important thing was to simply be there for others. I will always owe her a debt of gratitude because she showed up even when it wasn’t easy. She gave me the confidence to believe that I could push the boundaries of my capabilities. I’m also indebted to my patients, who challenge me every day to do my best and who push their own perceived boundaries and capacity.
O&P News: What was the defining moment that led you to your field?
Davis: I was a freshman in college and I took a pre-physical therapy course. One of the classes was an overview of the allied health professions who physical therapists routinely interact with. The class visited a large orthotic and prosthetic facility, and the prosthetist handed me a body-powered prosthetic arm. I was fascinated with the mechanics of the arm and how functional it was on the patient. It was the synthesis of art, design and engineering and I was hooked. From that moment on, I’ve been working in the field, first as a technician working my way through college and later as a CPO.
O&P News: What area of research in O&P most interests you right now? Why?
Davis: Research has taken a quantum leap forward in the time I’ve been practicing O&P and the students graduating from the current programs have such a fantastic foundation in research methods that it excites me about our future. The two research areas that most interest me at this time are focused on the psychological aspects of limb loss and outcomes measures. This research sheds light on how each practitioner can use simple quantifiable methods in their facilities to help their patients achieve better outcomes.
O&P News: Have you ever been fortunate enough to witness or to have been part of medical history in the making?
Davis: I was incredibly fortunate to be invited to the Rayburn Building in Washington, D.C., for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Revolutionizing Prosthetics initial unveiling. I was an average CPO working in Michigan who happened to have a friend working at the Pentagon and she invited me to this event. Upper extremity prosthetics was getting a lot of attention at the time and to be able to meet the people doing the [research and development] R&D was truly inspiring. I met not only many senators and generals that day, but also colleagues from the University of Michigan who had been working on the project without my having known it.
So much of what we have available today (multi-articulating hands, pattern-recognition software to operate myoelectric hands and elbows) stems from that original DARPA grant, and to have witnessed that day made me change the way I viewed O&P. I went from doing what I learned in school to reaching for what I once thought was unattainable. I’m still conservative in my approach to patient care, but now I’m involved in a few research initiatives that I would previously have shied away from because I don’t have a research background. I didn’t realize the amount of clinical input that research scientists need to be able to perform the amazing work they do. Everyone has a place at the research table, and clinical experience is a vital and invaluable part of the research effort.
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- Alicia J. Davis, MPA, CPO, FAAOP(D), can be reached by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disclosure: Davis reports no relevant financial disclosures.