Of Your Own Free Will

William D. Beiswenger,  CPO

Volunteering for one of the national O&P organizations benefits you as well as the profession. Websters Dictionary defines a "volunteer" as one who acts or serves of his or her own free will, acting or serving in a designated capacity willingly and without constraint or guarantee of reward.

The organizations of the O&P National Officethe American Board for Certification in Orthotics and Prosthetics (ABC), the American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists (the Academy), the American Orthotic and Prosthetic Association (AOPA), and the National Commission on Orthotic and Prosthetic Education (NCOPE)rely on volunteers to serve as committee members, committee chairs, directors and officers. The volunteers who serve in these capacities help lead and shape the future of orthotics and prosthetics.

Historically Speaking

Ever since the inception of AOPA 80 years ago, the O&P profession has benefited from the generous dedication of volunteer leaders. Without the devoted efforts of the early volunteers, the O&P profession as its known today may never have come to be. Instead of a profession of educated orthotists and prosthetists, O&P could have evolved much like the blacksmith trade of our forefathers.

The monumental effects of the efforts of the first O&P volunteers demonstrate how volunteer leaders play an important part in the continual promotion of quality prosthetic and orthotic care. If you love the O&P profession, I ask that you consider volunteering your expertise to help continue promoting the field.

A Worthy Cause

In this day and age of managed care and increased labor costs and costs of goods sold, it often is difficult for a practitioner to sacrifice time away from his or her daily practice and family to volunteer.

Why should you become involved? Is the time away from your practice and your family worth the efforts of continuing to shape the future of orthotics and prosthetics? If you ask those questions of any prior volunteer leaders, Im sure they would respond, "Please get involved, and, yes, it is worth it."

Many practitioners complain the profession is run by a network of "good old boys." They say they always hear and see the same names and the same faces in the committee structure and the leadership. However, all of the O&P National Office organizations are looking for practitioners to serve in the various levels of leadership.

Over the years, the organizations often have faced the problem of too few volunteers; thus, the volunteers who do a good job in leadership roles are always asked to continue. To diversity our volunteer leadership, I encourage each and every one of you to contact a current member of the board of directors of AOPA, ABC, the Academy or NCOPE to learn how you can get involved.

Personal Experience

I was first asked to become a volunteer with ABC in 1985 when I was approached to help with the Written Examination Committee. I was very excited about the request and eagerly joined the committee.

Through my involvement with my volunteer position, I have met many outstanding practitioners, manufacturer representatives and National Office staff members who have taught me ways of becoming more efficient and more successful with O&P care. To this day, I still look forward to meeting with my volunteer colleagues and sharing knowledge during our gatherings.

During volunteer meetings, the first business at hand is to accomplish the task that has been assigned by the board of directors; however, adequate time also is spent sharing significant cases or discussing problems and/or solutions that can be taken back to your practice.

Some of the most meaningful benefits of volunteering are the friendships that develop nationwide. Some practitioners I know have even taken those friendships to an international level. Such camaraderie makes you look forward to the next National Assembly or the next meeting with your volunteer committee.

I hope this brief perspective will help many of you make the decision to volunteer your time to support the profession. Yes, you can make a difference, and, yes, we look forward to hearing from you. Please feel free to contact the National Office at (703) 836-7114 or click below to send us an e-mail at: