A Conversation With Don Pierson, CO, CPed

In this issue, O&P News poses five questions to Don Pierson, CO, CPed, president of operations for Arizona AFO, a central fabrication facility with more than 70 employees in Mesa, Ariz. Pierson has been with the company for 12 years. Prior to that, he worked for Plattner Orthopedic Company in Peoria, Ill., for almost 20 years.

Pierson began his O&P career by completing the orthotic technician program at 916 Area Vo-Tech Institute in White Bear Lake, Minn., and eventually gained certification as a pedorthist and as an orthotist.

Pierson served for 4 years on the board of directors for the Board for Certification in Pedorthics (BCP) prior to and up until its merger with the American Board for Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics and Pedorthics (ABC), and later served another 4 years on the ABC board of directors.

He has offered lectures, webinars and workshops on custom-made AFOs.

Pierson has traveled each of the past 4 years to Haiti. He served as orthotist on trips with Medical Teams International and with Phoenix Rising for Haiti. He has also served in Jacmel, Haiti with Children’s Hope, a faith-based organization that runs a children’s home; schools that provide education and a daily meal for more than 850 children; and a medical and dental clinic that serves the general population.

Pierson is a member of the O&P News Editorial Board and a member of the O&P News 175.

Don Pierson, CO, CPed

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

Pierson: That would have to be Tony Plattner, CO. He is my former employer who introduced me to the O&P field and offered me a job as a technician with his company. He sent me to the O&P tech school in White Bear Lake, and then over the years mentored me to where I gained certifications as a practitioner, first in pedorthics, and then in orthotics. We custom-fabricated the majority of the devices we provided. Tony emphasized the importance of quality craftsmanship for those devices and how that translated to the benefit of our patients. If I had never met Tony I may have never been aware of how this industry helps so many people.

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

Pierson: I lost my job. That will always get your attention when you have a family to support. I was working for Caterpillar on a tractor engine assembly line. They had a huge layoff, and I was one of those affected. At the time I was distraught, but looking back it was one of the best things that happened to me. Working at Cat provided for my family and I was thankful for that, but O&P opened up so many opportunities to learn new things, to meet and work with so many great folks, to travel all over the United States, and to stretch myself in ways I never imagined.

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

Pierson: I offer a few things. First, for practitioners, do not neglect the technical aspect of our field. Take opportunities to learn fabrication. Even if you utilize a central fab for the majority of your custom devices, knowing what goes into creating that device is valuable knowledge. You will gain appreciation for those skilled techs who do the fabrication.

Second, do all you can to find employment at a facility that encourages you to grow; one that makes you strive for excellence and focuses on providing outstanding patient outcomes.

And third, give back. Use your skillset and abilities to help those around the world who are most in need of our services, but have limited access. I have had the pleasure to take several trips to Haiti over the last few years. The people there are so great and are thankful for whatever we can do to help them. In developing countries, life is hard for the able-bodied, but add a physical disability and it gets tough. It is so wonderful to see how the O&P community has stepped up to help folks all over the world. Get involved in some type of outreach. You will never regret doing it.

O&P News: What do you enjoy doing to relax?

Pierson: I like to play golf. I can find that to be relaxing even when shooting 20 over par. In Arizona, you can play 18 holes of golf in the summer inexpensively and it is not difficult to get a tee time. It is 110° here in the summer, so that may have something to do with it. I also enjoy watching various professional sports. I am a lifelong St. Louis Cardinals Baseball fan, so I follow them closely, even though now I am a long way from the Midwest. My wife, Rosie, and I also love to travel whenever our schedules allow.

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

Pierson: I wish I knew. Our company has been blessed with continual growth during the 12 years I have been here. We are experiencing another significant growth spurt that brings with it the many challenges related to meeting our clients’ needs. I know I will be adding more members to our team and expanding our reach into new areas. I can pretty much guarantee that a year from now I will be thinking to myself, wow, I never guessed we would be doing this.

Disclosure: Pierson reports no relevant financial disclosures.

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