A Conversation With Sara Peterson, CPO, MBA, FAAOP

In this issue, O&P News poses five questions to Sara L. Peterson, CPO, MBA, FAAOP, director of the Master of Science in Prosthetics and Orthotics (MSPO) program at the University of Pittsburgh. Peterson began teaching prosthetics and orthotics 7 years ago after managing patients on an outpatient and inpatient basis in a large hospital setting. She has worked in the O&P field since 1989 and holds dual certifications from the American Board for Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics and Pedorthics (ABC) along with certification as a mastectomy fitter. She has experience in pediatric rehabilitation, trauma services, athletic bracing and geriatric rehabilitation.

Peterson is currently a doctoral candidate in the Rehabilitation Science program at the University of Pittsburgh focusing on the health of the residual limb.

She serves as president of the Pennsylvania/Maryland/Virginia/Washington, D.C. chapter of the American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists (AAOP) and is a fellow of the national AAOP.

Peterson is a member of the O&P News 175.

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

Peterson: I have had several mentors throughout my career. From my earlier years I would like to acknowledge my O&P practitioner instructors, Ed Haddon, CO, and Steve Stolberg, CP. I am also thankful for the guidance and knowledge from my residency mentors, Robert Lipschutz, CP, and Chuck Schemitsch, CO. More recently, Rory Cooper, PhD, chair of the Rehabilitation Science and Technology Department; Alicia Koontz, PhD, RET; and Ray Burdett, PhD, PT, CO, CPed, have been instrumental with mentoring my research career. All these professionals possess their own skill set and expertise which has provided me with a vast knowledge and exposure to the O&P profession and in the field of rehabilitation science research.

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

Peterson: I am interested in enhancing the overall health of the amputee with a focus on the structure of the residual limb. I have had the honor to receive an Orthotic and Prosthetic Education Research Foundation Fellowship Award to fund my doctoral research project investigating the use of neuromuscular electrical stimulation in the transtibial amputee population. This research may lead to new ways to strengthen and improve the health of the residual limb which in turn may improve the quality of life for amputees.

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

Peterson: I would like to encourage and thank the O&P students of today who continue to challenge me to never stop learning. I also would reinforce the fact O&P programs educate and prepare students to learn entry level basic concepts and skills while the residency provides the experience and practice to enhance the learned concepts and skills. Students should utilize the resources and discounts offered by the AAOP and through the American Orthotic and Prosthetic Association. I highly encourage all students to attend local and national meetings and to partake in webinars, webcasts and the online learning center these organizations offer. Students should also learn to problem solve through evidence-based practice, and to apply this knowledge to meet their patients’ needs by offering optimal solutions.

O&P News: Have you ever been fortunate enough to witness or to have been part of medical history in the making? If so, please explain.

Peterson: I am currently an investigator in a research study, “Enriched Autologous Fat Grafting for Treating Pain at Amputation Sites,” which investigates the efficacy of minimally invasive autologous fat transfers at the amputation site. Although fat grafting is a common procedure, this study is new to the amputee population by providing the goal of improving the fit of prosthetic sockets.

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

Peterson: I am working toward completion of my doctoral degree in Rehabilitation Science at the University of Pittsburgh. I am also working with colleagues to launch a new program, Beyond the Book O&P Educational Services, offering consulting, tutoring and board exam review workshops.

Disclosure: Peterson reports no relevant financial disclosures.

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