A Conversation With Michelle Hall, MS, CPO, FAAOP(D)

In this issue, O&P News poses five questions to Michelle Hall, MS, CPO, FAAOP(D). Hall is a practitioner, prosthetics residency director and researcher who focuses on adult patients at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare.

Hall earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biomedical engineering from the University of Iowa and University of Minnesota, respectively. She completed her O&P education at Northwestern University and both residencies at American Prosthetics & Orthotics Inc. in Iowa City, Iowa. She is a past president and Fellow with Distinction of the American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists (AAOP). Michelle is also a three-time Thranhardt lecture finalist and has volunteered extensively for AAOP as well as the American Orthotic and Prosthetic Association (AOPA); the American Board for Certification in Prosthetics, Orthotics and Pedorthics (ABC); and the National Commission on Orthotic and Prosthetic Education (NCOPE).

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

Hall: I am an avid runner and cyclist. Annually, I help to lead the Academy’s Run, Walk, and Roll events and volunteer for the Twin Cities Marathon organization. Additionally, I enjoy traveling. This year I am looking forward to spending a week in Iowa for RAGBRAI [The Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa], which will combine two favorite hobbies, cycling and travel, along with time with family and friends.

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

Hall: Although I have been incredibly fortunate to have several dear mentors, Don Shurr, CPO, PT, has had the greatest influence on my career. I am so grateful to have been hired by him during my undergraduate studies. He continued directly mentoring me as my residency director and manager thereafter. It was he who suggested I submit my first abstract to present at a national meeting while a resident, encouraged me to complete [Institutional Review Board] IRB-approved research during my residencies (one of which won a Thranhardt lecture series) and continued to provide opportunities for me professionally and clinically that matched my interests and kept me motivated. I always appreciated that he would give me the “book answer,” what the research suggested and his clinical preference whenever discussing clinical cases. He was also a role model for me regarding being a professional and volunteering for national leadership roles. All of these are things I have attempted to emulate throughout my career, as a leader within the profession and as a residency director and mentor to others. He has been a willing guide for me throughout my career and for than I am thankful.

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

Hall: I stumbled upon the profession because a secretary at my university knew a secretary at the local O&P company and she thought that prosthetics might be a good option for me. I had just returned from a co-op experience during undergrad at the University of Iowa in biomedical engineering. I had decided that I no longer wanted to pursue medical school and the physical therapy job market appeared swamped, so I did not know what I should choose for a career. I knew I did not want to be an engineer. I was discussing this dilemma with our departmental secretary who suggested O&P as a career. Although I initially was sure this was the right choice, I had doubts during O&P school. In fact, classmates of mine are sometimes surprised that I have not yet gone to medical school and still am practicing in O&P. Once I moved into my clinical experience with Tom Gavin, CO, focusing on spinal orthotics, and then on to my residency with Don Shurr, CPO, PT, I knew I had made the right choice. I love providing direct clinical O&P care. There was no looking back after that.


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

Hall: Currently, I am most interested in research related to the effect of O&P management on patients’ balance. How can dynamic balance be measured? Which measurements are most appropriate for O&P? What specific aspects of the orthosis or prosthesis are causing a change in balance? Is this correlated to falls or fall risk? I find this work fascinating and think that we have only scratched the surface of it. I look forward to a decade from now when I hope, with a bit more funding, we will have better answers to these questions and perhaps have measures that can easily be used to directly affect clinical care.

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

Hall: Become part of our professional community. We are a small profession, so networking is the key. One of the best ways to do that is by volunteering. It is critical that in choosing to do so, you find it in an area related to your passions. This will ensure that you enjoy the experience and it will not become a burden. I and many of my colleagues have been afforded many rewarding opportunities because we have engaged within our profession at the local and national levels through volunteerism. Some of my dearest friends and colleagues I have met through volunteering. It is what helps define us as professionals.

Disclosure: Hall reports no relevant financial disclosures.

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