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Karen Edwards Blogger

OWLI Women in Leadership Series

Posted by Karen Edwards | June 25, 2017

Welcome to the June ÖWLI blog. We have loads of great events lined up including our Women's Leadership Conference being hosted in Orlando, FL Sept. 28-30. Register at the link below to reserve your spot before they are all taken! We anticipate a full house this year!

This month we continue our Women in O&P Leadership Series with featured leader Bridget Lawler, Clinical Director and CPO at Westcoast Brace and Limb, Tampa, FL.

Q&A Session with Bridget Lawler, Clinical Director and CPO, Westcoast Brace and Limb


How long have you worked in the O&P industry? Since 2005, 12 years

What is your hometown? Tampa, FL

What P&O School did you attend? Northwestern University

When did you know you wanted to be in the orthotics/prosthetics business? During undergrad, I sat in on a career talk at Stetson University. It combined all of my interests (medical, creative, hands on, helping people, innovation) into one profession which seemed like a perfect fit!

What obstacles did you overcome along the way? Changing my career path that late into undergrad required an immediate immersion of interning to get the exposure and necessary hours to apply and attend O&P school at NUPOC. This resulted in taking my courses in the mornings, then driving 1hr to Orlando to intern, then back to study and work at night, repeat daily.

What risks did you take? Life has a funny way of working itself out when you take risks. My risks started before learning about O&P. Half way through college I up and moved to NYC where I knew no one and nothing about the city, all to experience something different. While I was there, I decided I wasn't satisfied with my current education/university and blindly applied to Stetson University because they had my major, a low student:teacher ratio, and respectable Health Science program. Once accepted, I met Rachel Friddle, and through she and her father, I learned about this profession, something that would probably never had happened had I not taken the risks in the previous year.

How do you define success? Success takes on many forms and definitions. Many years ago a mentor told me, it's not a successful day unless you have done two things: learned something new and helped someone else. I believe this wholeheartedly. Success is also going to work everyday knowing that I am going to give it my all and that together we are all going to make a difference. It's also knowing that some days I will give my all and it may not be enough, learning from those experiences, and trying again tomorrow. As long as I keep on trying and keep on learning, then I feel I am continually working towards success.

What was the key to your success? Good patient people! Hard work, perseverance, working extra hours to further learn and understand, but most importantly not being afraid to ask questions. I was lucky to be surrounded by people who were willing to answer all my questions or at least guide me to the answers, let me try new things, let me make mistakes and how to pick myself back up and keep moving forward. I was blessed to work with amazing practitioners who really went above and beyond to teach me the ins and outs of the clinical and technical sides, and then ultimately the business side of our profession too.

Have you used a mentor? Who helped you along the way? My mentors have come in many forms. My Grandmother who taught me my entire life to not live by other people's standards and to be willing to take risks to continue better myself and those around me. There are two mentors though who most molded my career, especially early on, Frank Friddle Jr and Michael Oros. Frank (and his daughter, Rachel) were not only responsible for exposing me to this profession but also introducing me to many great people who would further help me along the way. Michael Oros and his team were instrumental in teaching me not only about the importance of top notch patient care but also the importance of running an ethical and busy practice, which has carried over into my current position at Westcoast. These two, and countless others, believed in me and sacrificed their time to ensure that I was becoming the best I could be and providing appropriate clinical care and outcomes.

What is your perception of being a woman in the O&P field? While I know many who have had varying experiences as women in our profession, I personally, have a good perception as I do not feel that being a woman has held me back.

How have things changed for women in the field during your career? There are a lot more women now than there were when I started! Women are now participating on more Boards, involved in more R&D, filling more speaking roles, on the front lines of clinical care, attending technical school, etc. The dynamics of the profession have changed as well with less of an emphasis on technical skills and more of a focus on clinical skills which I feel may have impacted the increased interest of women joining the O&P profession. However, I still get the occasional patient who seems quite surprised to have a female practitioner.

What advice would you give to a new practitioner and/or to young women entering the field? Ask questions and be prepared to work hard! Whether a woman or not, any professional entering the field has a lot to learn. It will require extra time whether before or after hours or on weekends. This time should be spent researching pathologies, various techniques, materials, reading insurance policies, taking courses, honing your hand-skills, etc. Get your hands dirty...go work in a technical capacity whether in your own lab or at a C-fab for a few days/weeks to truly understand what goes into building a device. Most importantly respect all members of the team as no one, not admin, clinical, nor technical, can do our jobs without the other and at the end of the day we're working toward the common goal of providing a device and service to someone in need so we can make a difference in their quality of life.

What challenges do you think women currently face in the O&P field? I think the challenges that women face in O&P are similar to the challenges women face in most professions, trying to find a work life balance while making a name for themselves. Other actual challenges are having to prove ourselves or be taken seriously...sometimes within our own profession but more so amongst the referral sources. There is still a large part of both O&P and Orthopedics in general that are part of the "Good Ol Boy Club", something that we'll continue to work hard to be considered equals in.

How can we get more women in leadership roles within O&P? Getting women into leadership roles, or anyone for that matter, starts with empowering the individual, believing in them, and investing the time into developing that person into someone with good leadership skills and the confidence to apply for available leadership roles.

What leaders do you admire? There are many leaders of whom I admire particular traits, but my mother is one leader who encompasses many of them on a consistent basis. She leads with strength and integrity, has taught me to look at all sides of a situation and the effects, how to not just take things at face value, embracing challenges and people's uniqueness, the importance of hard work but also enjoying your work, and how to do all of this plus more while raising a family.

Thank you, Bridget for your leadership and for sharing your insights!

MARK YOUR CALENDARS: Reserve a spot on your schedule for the following upcoming ÖWLI events...

RESCHEDULED Jul. 21, 2017, 12-1pm Pacific Time: ÖWLI Webinar Series: Work/Life Balance. Our ÖWLI Webinar Series for 2017 continues with a look into a topic with which we all struggle -- how can we have "more time" to bring balance to our busy lives? Led by ÖWLI's own Karen Edwards, this webinar incorporates a video by time-management expert Laura Vanderkam and discusses how planning and choosing our activities can result in "created hours" and improved quality of work and life. Register HERE

Sept. 28-30, 2017: Össur Women's Leadership Conference, Orlando, FL. If you came last year, you know you want to come again! If you missed last year's conference, NOW is your chance to register for this unique, professional conference designed exclusively for women in O&P. This year's schedule includes a workshop on building your personal brand, an extended panel discussion, multiple networking opportunities as well as some great entertainment. FYI, the Owners/Directors/Managers session will be held prior to the start of the conference the evening of Wed. 9/27 with a dinner, so make your plans accordingly. We only have 50 spaces available so REGISTER EARLY HERE!!

Nov. 10, 2017, 12-1pm Central Time: ÖWLI Webinar Series: Attract the Attention of Influential Sponsors. Harvard Business Review has reported that high-potential women are over-mentored and under-sponsored relative to male peers. In this webinar, led by Jo Miller, CEO of Women's Leadership Coaching, Inc., explore the difference between mentors and sponsors. Learn four ways to make the most of mentoring conversations, and how to identify potential sponsors. Discover eight steps to gaining sponsorship, and leave with a personalized plan to attract the attention of an influential sponsor. REGISTRATION INFO COMING SOON.

Best wishes for an amazing month,

Karen Edwards
Director, Össur Women’s Leadership Initiative

ÖWLI Quote of the Month (Bridget's favorite quote): "Only as high as I reach can I grow, only as far as I seek can I go, only as deep as I look can I see, only as much as I dream, can I be." Karen Raun

Talk to us!! Your feedback is welcomed and encouraged! Please let us know what you think of our initiative, share your ideas, share your victories, or just say “hi” by emailing us at And join the ÖWLI Facebook Group today!