A Conversation With Robert S. Lin, MEd, CPO, FAAOP

In this issue, O&P News poses five questions to Robert S. Lin, MEd, CPO, FAAOP, director of Clinical Standards for Hanger Clinic.

For nearly two decades, Lin served as the chief orthotist at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center while simultaneously holding the positions of national residency director and director of academic programs for Hanger. After completing his undergraduate degree at the University of Connecticut, Lin went on to complete his orthotic/prosthetic training at New York University’s (NYU) Post Graduate Medical School. He completed both his orthotic and prosthetic residencies at the then Newington Children’s Hospital and became board certified in orthotics and prosthetics by the American Board for Certification in Orthotics/Prosthetics and Pedorthics (ABC) in 1984. In 2001 he completed the fellowship program with the American Academy of Orthotics and Prosthetics.

In 1993, Lin began the Newington Certificate Program in Orthotics and Prosthetics (the precursor to the University of Hartford’s MSPO Program), growing the program from an initial cohort of six students to its current level of 60 graduates per year. Known nationally and internationally for his work in pediatric orthotics, spinal orthotics and O&P academia, Lin has authored numerous journal articles and textbook chapters and lectured extensively in his areas of clinical expertise. In addition, he has served on the board of the National Commission on Orthotic Prosthetic Education, culminating in his year as chairman of the board in 1995. He also served as president of ABC in 2009, and holds joint adjunct faculty appointments at the University of Connecticut and University of Hartford. Lin is a member of the O&P News Editorial Board and the O&P News 175.

O&P News: Who has had the greatest influence on your career?

Lin: While there were many individuals who had profound influences on me, I would have to single out Ronald Altman, CPO(E). Ron was the director of the O&P department at Newington Children’s Hospital where I did my orthotics residency fresh out of NYU. Even though he delegated the clinical training responsibilities to his staff, Ron taught me more about professionalism, integrity, volunteer-leadership and management than any single person before … or since.

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

Lin: In my opinion, outcomes research is the most important and interesting area we are embarking on right now, at unprecedented levels. To finally see the scientific validation of what we have intuitively believed to be the benefits of our clinical efforts is most intriguing. In addition, my work in developing valid clinical practice guidelines for key O&P treatment modalities/technologies, should help illuminate the most efficient pathways to achieve those desired outcomes. Both areas are critical to the future of O&P.

O&P News: Have you ever been fortunate enough to witness or to have been part of medical history in the making?

Lin: I cannot say there was a singular event I have witnessed that shaped medical or O&P history. However, I have been fortunate enough to experience the impact that the explosion of computer sciences has had on not only health care but the world in general. Everything from the obvious [computer-aided design/computer-aided manufacturing technology] CAD/CAM to robotic surgery to having the on-call radiologist read a complex radiograph of a child, taken in the middle of the night at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, while sitting in his office in Perth, Australia … is simply mind blowing. The examples could go on forever.

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

Lin: As a professor in one of the O&P education programs, I think I give advice with great frequency (some perhaps unsolicited, some perhaps inadvertent). Overall I would tell them that despite the emphasis on technology, materials, components and their advanced training in research, [they should] not lose sight of the humanistic aspects of what they are doing in their careers: simply helping a fellow human being improve the quality of his or her life … period. This should be the prevailing consideration for everything they do.

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

Lin: I hope to continue to contribute — not only to my employer, but to the O&P profession globally, in my work with clinical standards. Treating patients will always be a part of who I am so I would like to continue to practice to some degree. And in my free time, I will keep up with my oil painting and hope to finish my medical murder mystery novel (perhaps a NY Times Best Seller Fiction?).

Disclosure: Lin reports no relevant financial information.

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