A Conversation With Joel J. Kempfer, CP, FAAOP

In this issue, O&P News poses five questions to Joel J. Kempfer, CP, FAAOP, president and chief executive officer of Kempfer P&O in Greenfield, Wis.

Kempfer has led his practice for more than 16 years. He has authored and published several articles on prosthetics practice and presented numerous educational papers at national professional conferences. He has been a guest lecturer at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, and for the past 17 years has lectured occupational therapy doctoral students on the topic of prosthetics. He also has been a guest lecturer for Marquette University and Rosalind Franklin University.

He served as a volunteer director for the Midwest Chapter of the American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists (AAOP) for 5 years, where he was instrumental in the development of two educational seminars, the Electronic Stance Control Lower Extremity Orthotic Symposium and the CAD/CAM Symposium.

Kempfer has volunteered as a clinical patient management examiner for the past 20 years for the American Board for Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics and Pedorthics (ABC), where he evaluates prosthetic certification candidates. In 1996, Kempfer assisted ABC in the development of the exam for prosthetic assistant candidates to attain certification.

Joel J. Kempfer, CP, FAAOP

He served on the board of directors for the Orthotic Prosthetic Assistance Fund for 6 years, holding positions as volunteer director, president-elect and president of the board. He also volunteered with the 2002 Winter Paralympics, offering prosthetic care and support to the athletes in Salt Lake City. He spent 10 years volunteering as a humanitarian mission group leader with the Comprehensive Rehabilitation Center for Disabled Locomotor, IAP in Queretaro, Mexico, which provides prosthetic services to indigent Mexican citizens.

Kempfer is a member of the O&P News Editorial Board and a member of the O&P News 175. He is also a member of the Practitioner Advisory Board for the O&P Almanac.

O&P News: What are your hobbies outside of work?

Kempfer: Anyone who knows me can attest to my former passion for golf. From organizing numerous golf trips, to putting on various charitable outings, volunteering for Professional Golfers’ Association of America tour events including six majors, or to playing several times a week, golf had been a huge part of my life. Unfortunately, a bulging lumbar disc has limited my play for the past few years. Happily though, I have renewed my love of bicycling in its place. We have great trails in and around Wisconsin, so I avail myself of every opportunity to pedal about. Considering our sometimes immoderate weather, I am proud to clock more than 1,000 miles each of the last 2 years. Some may think we have a short cycling season here, but I am one of those nuts you see on the road in winter as long as the trails and streets are dry. I also have combined my love of photography with cycling and capture some of our beautiful cityscapes or rural splendor during my rides.

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

Kempfer: The privilege of working side by side with Arturo Vasquez Vela, CP, FAAOP, during humanitarian missions to Mexico has given me a new perspective of our profession and the compassion to help others. His tireless selflessness, generosity, graciousness and compassion for the downtrodden have taught me life lessons well beyond our field of prosthetics. Besides our mission, I was fortunate enough to participate and observe the first certification exams of Mexican practitioners. Arturo almost single-handedly developed and organized the exam as means to elevate the entire profession in the Mexican medical community. I smile when I recall the story that he purposely failed our ABC exams only to garner more experience and information in developing their exams. Sadly, Arturo passed away unexpectedly a few years ago. I miss him a lot, but realize I am a better person for having known him.

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

Kempfer: One of the most rewarding aspects of my career has been volunteerism. I would highly encourage fledgling practitioners to seek out opportunities upon completion of their residencies. I have enjoyed serving on the Midwest Chapter of AAOP and take great pride and satisfaction in having helped organize some of their most successful educational meetings. Through my own experience during my ABC certification exam and the treatment I received, I signed on as an examiner at the first eligible opportunity. During the past 20-plus years, I have enjoyed assisting young practitioners in reaching their goal of certification. Almost more importantly, I have met some of the finest people in our profession and garnered lifelong friendships through this experience. Lastly, I have had the great pleasure of traveling to Mexico as part of an ongoing humanitarian mission. The experience of using my talents to help those who otherwise would go without care has been the most rewarding aspect of my career. It is more than refreshing to provide prostheses without regard for reimbursement or the red tape of dealing with insurers. I am always taken aback at the happy, generous nature of the Mexicans we served even though they had little in material goods.

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

Kempfer: I was fortunate to be in the inaugural class when Ottobock introduced the C-Leg in 1999. My friend [the late] Todd Anderson invited me as a representative of a small, single practitioner company. I was amazed at the technology of the time and the potential to help great numbers of amputees. I was delighted to see the reaction of seasoned prosthetic users walk down stairs, step over step, for the first time. I now see newer technology being developed at rapid pace and only hope we have the resources to utilize it for those it is designed to help.

O&P News: What was the defining moment that led you to your field?

Kempfer: Photography had been a passion of mine since childhood. It was my goal to obtain the best available training as a photographer’s mate in the U.S. Navy, so I enlisted with a guarantee of attending their school. While going through the barrage of tests during my entrance physical, they found I was color blind. Although I knew this, they stated that color blindness precluded me from being a photographer’s mate. I was told I needed to choose another school or “I would be scraping paint on the side of a ship for 4 years.” The only other rate I could imagine on the fly was the hospital corps. Thus began my adventure in the field of medicine. I worked in a number of capacities throughout my service, but ultimately specialized in physical therapy, occupational therapy and orthopedics. As I contemplated my career options prior to discharge, I wished to stay in the medicine, but always enjoyed working with my hands. After researching the field, I applied for the prosthetic program at the former Lakewood Community College — now Century College — and feel fortunate for having chosen this path.

Disclosure: Kempfer reports no relevant financial disclosures.

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