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Karen Edwards Blogger

Profile of Women in O&P Leadership - Susan Kapp

Posted by Karen Edwards | September 21, 2015

Welcome to the September edition of the ÖWLI blog! The weather is cooling down and things are heating up in the world of O&P! ÖWLI and several of our members represented the industry and our initiative last month at the public meeting regarding the proposed LCD changes. It was a very inspirational event and awesome to see our industry come together to champion our cause. FYI, a great way to keep up with the Medicare changes and other reimbursement issues is to sign up for Össur R&R at //www.ossur.com/about-ossur/ossur-r-r. They will keep you posted with up-to-the-minute news and education about reimbursement.

In this month's blog, we present our third Profile of Women in O&P Leadership feature in which we highlight a woman who is a leader in the O&P Profession. This month we highlight Susan Kapp, M.Ed., CPO, LPO, FAAOP, Associate Professor and Director of the Prosthetics-Orthotics Program at UT Southwestern School of Health Professions.


Name and current title:  Susan Kapp, M.Ed., CPO, LPO, FAAOP, Associate Professor and Director of the Prosthetics-Orthotics Program at UT Southwestern School of Health Professions.

Hometown:  Heilbronn, Germany

School:  Northwestern University

Number of years in O&P:

Current Leadership Positions:

  • Board member, American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists
  • International Standards Organization P&O Committee

When did you know you wanted to be a CPO? 

I had a college roommate who has a congenital anomaly and wears a prosthesis.  She needed a repair to her prosthesis and invited me to accompany her to the prosthetist's office. The prosthetist gave me a tour of the practice and told me about P&O.  It was certainly a "lightbulb" moment as my interest in healthcare and mechanical aptitude were a perfect fit.  Immediately upon graduation I worked in an orthotic practice as a technician while waiting to be accepted into Northwestern University.  I made a lot of metal and leather orthoses and did a lot of sweeping!

What obstacles have you overcome to achieve your success?

Keeping the academic program strong and curriculum up-to-date requires funding.  I did not want to work in an environment where there was little room for growth, research or patient care.  So we developed a university based clinical practice.  The practice faces the same daily challenges as does any across the country. Additionally, being a small piece of a large medical center physician practice has challenges all its own. Those obstacles aside, we have grown from three faculty and two staff to seven faculty, four residents and eight staff members.

Another obstacle for me personally was recognizing that I needed to accept leadership roles.  I have the skills to be a leader but am sometimes uncomfortable in that role, especially public speaking.  The obstacle I have learned to overcome is to step up to the challenge and just do it.

What risks have you taken that have paid off?

Not sure returning to school is a risk, but it took a lot of time and effort while still being responsible for the academic program and clinic full time.

How do you define "success"?

When one has the satisfaction of achievement and knowing you did your best.

What was the key to your success?

Family and mentor support.  Recognizing that there is no "I" in "team".  Hard work and working hard to have positive interactions with others.

What is your perception of being a woman in the O&P field?

I never felt as if I should be treated differently or approach my job differently as a female in a male dominated field.  For many years I was the only female prosthetist-orthotist in Texas.  Male colleagues have always been kind and considerate.  I believe that if you do your job well and interact professionally, you will be respected as a clinician no matter your gender.

Have you used a mentor? Who helped you along the way?

Mel Stills, CO encouraged me and always thought I was more capable than I felt. He push me out of my comfort zone, yet supported me along the way.

How have things changed for women in the field during your career?

I have been fortunate to work in the university environment where I don't experience gender bias.  I have never sensed any lack of acceptance by male colleagues or patients.  In the last several years our classes have been about 50% women, as has our faculty.  Profession wide I see a greater acceptance of women in the field and I am pleased to see so many of us in leadership positions.

What advice would you give to a new practitioner and/or young women entering the O&P field?

Work hard, don't let your gender separate you or define you.   Your value to a practice is based on your clinical abilities and the rapport you develop with your patients.  Be confident, believe in yourself and act accordingly.

What challenges do you think women currently face in the O&P field?

Women face fewer challenges today than in the past.  It has been many years since I've heard the sentiment that women don't belong in our field.  Finding balance between home and family is definitely a challenge, but that of course holds true for all working women.

How can we get more women in leadership roles within O&P?

Volunteer and network. Start with small roles within our national and state organizations.  Volunteer to present at conferences, get noticed.  The organizations always welcome help.  Become a residency mentor or ABC examiner.  Volunteer within your community, those skills will translate to your profession as well.

What leaders do you admire?

Mel Stills, CO is an Academy and ISPO past president.  He taught me that it is my obligation to give back to a profession that I love.  I've followed his advice and that has provided me with professional gratification.  Mel is service-minded and selflessly gave his time and expertise to the profession.  He is an exceptional leader, friend and mentor.

THANK YOU to Susan for sharing her insights with us and for being a great example of a leader in our profession! Thanks to all of your great suggestions, we have a great list of women to highlight over the next few quarters, so look for our next highlight in the December 2015 blog.

ÖWLI Book Club:  As we announced last month, we officially started the ÖWLI book club! Our first book will be "Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead," by Sheryl Sandberg. Sandberg, COO of Facebook, examines why women's progress in achieving leadership roles has stalled, explains the root causes, and offers compelling, commonsense solutions that can empower women to achieve their full potential. It is a quick read, well researched, and eye opening! Buy the book (any form), read it between now and October 16, and on the 16th and join us on our Book Club Webinar to discuss your thoughts. We are hosting two separate times to accommodate the various time zones. Register HERE for the 12pm EASTERN time webinar, and register HERE for the 12pm PACIFIC time webinar.

November Webinar:  Also, mark your calendar for our exciting upcoming webinar featuring nationally acclaimed author Selena Rezvani who is presenting a one-hour presentation entitled, "The Art of the Ask: Negotiating with Confidence." Selena is the author of "Pushback: How Smart Women Ask and Stand Up For What They Want."  Invitations will be sent out in early October. The webinar will be held 12-1pm EDT.

Thanks for being a part of ÖWLI! Please continue to send us your feedback and let us know what you like, don't like and how we can help you grow as a leader in our profession. Email us at OWLI@ossur.com, and join our Facebook page (search for "Ossur Women's Leadership Initiative").

Until October,

Karen Edwards

Director, Össur Women's Leadership Initiative

ÖWLI Quote of the Month (Susan's favorite quote):  "Be the kind of leader that you would follow" – Unknown

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 OWLI@Ossur.com. And follow us on Twitter @OWLIOssur and Facebook at Ossur Women's Leadership Initiative page.