A Conversation With Matthew Parente, MS, PT, CPO, FAAOP

In this issue, O&P News poses five questions to Matthew Parente, MS, PT, CPO, FAAOP.

Parente is the national clinical education specialist at Hanger, Inc. and assistant professor and clinical director of the Prosthetics and Orthotics Program at the University of Hartford. He is certified in both orthotics and prosthetics by the American Board for Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics and Pedorthics.

After receiving his bachelor’s degree in physical therapy at the University of Buffalo, he went on to earn a master’s degree in neuroscience from the University of Hartford, where he now teaches. His teaching focuses on the clinical and professional aspects of O&P. He teaches multiple courses to undergraduate and graduate students, and is responsible for the integrated internship courses in the master’s program in prosthetics and orthotics (MSPO). Parente is also an instructor for the prosthetics and rehabilitation strategies curricular component in the doctoral program in physical therapy.

His interests include student and program development and advancement. In particular, he has been engaged in curriculum coordination throughout the program. He frequently assists and consults on research projects within the department.

Parente is known to build relationships within the university and throughout the entire field. He was instrumental in the initiation and development of the MSPO program at the University of Hartford.

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

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

Parente: I would not call it a hobby, but my three daughters, Ava, Olivia and Alexis, keep me busy. My wife and I have a lot of fun with them. I guess spending time with my family would be considered my hobby. My girls remind me to have fun and try to enjoy the moment.

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

Parente: I started my career at Pankow P&O, a small company in Niagara Falls, N.Y. The owner, Jim Pankow, CPO, guided me professionally, academically and personally. He taught me the importance of the little things – how to appreciate them and how to get them done. One day, within 1 hour, we openly cheered as a patient took his first steps, and then we finished that day by cleaning the office and sweeping the floors. It was all part of the job and it had to be done.

Matthew Parente, MS, PT, CPO

He encouraged me to apply to the Newington Certificate Program (NCP), then pushed me to stay at the NCP for orthotics and to complete my residency at Shriners Hospital for Children in Springfield, Mass. I could not be more thankful for my time with Jim and the path he encouraged me to follow.

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

Parente: When I began my career as a physical therapist, one of my patients in neurorehabilitation had a traumatic transfemoral amputation and just received his first prosthesis. I thought I would have to motivate him and push him to succeed. I figured he would be depressed, but I could not have been more wrong. He had a tremendous drive and outlook on everything. He occasionally brought his three daughters to his appointments to remind himself of why he was working so hard. He was one of the most humble, inspirational and motivational people I have had the privilege to work with.

I often think about my patients’ stories and remember they are the ones motivating me, not the other way around. As an educator, I take a tremendous amount of pride in providing a foundation to my students. They carry that foundation out into the field, creating their own success by treating countless patients. Their success is what continues to motivate me as an educator.

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

Parente: Osseointegration. I am amazed by the advances in medicine, research and technology that have made this procedure become a possibility for patients with amputations. I believe we will see parallel advances in neurointegration as well.

We need to be aware of research outside of O&P because there are a lot of developments and inventions we can use to benefit our patients. Just look at something as simple as battery technology. Batteries are not being developed with the intention of being used in prosthetic devices. These are being developed for the tech industry. However, we are willing to use smaller, stronger, lighter and longer-lasting batteries for our patients. 3-D printers are another example of how we can adopt and adapt new tools and technology to benefit our patients.

We are in an exciting time in the field and it is up to us to embrace it.

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

Parente: Never underestimate the impact you can have on your patients’ lives. Your patients come to you expecting your best effort. Always give it to them. What you get in return will exceed your wildest dreams. Ask any clinicians about their “favorite” patient. They will pause and reflect upon a challenging patient who has had success due to both of their efforts. All the hours and hours of studying and hard work will be worth it.

Disclosure: Parente reports no relevant financial disclosures.

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