Need for Advanced Degree Program in Prosthetics and Orthotics

The profession of prosthetics and orthotics (P&O) has recently undergone a revolution. Except for the World Wars in the early part of the 20th century, at no other time in history has a national interest swung in favor of advancing prosthesis and orthosis design and engineering technology as part of a process of enhancing the lives of people. Many professions (i.e., engineering, computer science, biomechanics, neuroscience and others) have examined the performance of designed prostheses, orthoses or related wearable technology for use by people and other living beings. In many instances, these efforts have failed to produce well-rounded and effective wearable technology for human use. These shortcomings are most likely due to a lack of clinically relevant knowledge and skills of the individuals and institutions engaged in these noble efforts. A common reason for this shortcoming is that engineers, scientists and others do not possess sufficient knowledge and clinical experience to understand the unique needs of persons who wear orthoses and prostheses.

On the other side, most clinicians who possess the knowledge and skills to design orthosis and prosthesis wearable technology for people are not equipped with the “know how” to effectively and rigorously apply science as part of the process of advancing the body of knowledge or to implement effective continuous quality improvement.

Bridging this gap in the translation of knowledge between the clinical bedside and research-technology bench is a priority of the Georgia Tech Master of Science in Prosthetics and Orthotics program curriculum.

Master of Science in Prosthetics and Orthotics Curriculum Approach

At Georgia Tech, the Master of Science in Prosthetics and Orthotics (MSPO) curriculum engages students to learn in a rigorous education experience that empowers sound and effective patient assessment and treatment while incorporating strong knowledge and skills in science that will advance the body of knowledge of the profession. To achieve this, we have created a unique and successful approach that is unlike any other education program in Prosthetics and Orthotics the United States.

Unique Clinical Training and Education

The MSPO program curriculum weaves practitioner education in clinical patient assessment and management where students learn from some of the top board certified clinical practitioner faculty. Students learn the core patient assessment and treatment approaches in a clinical environment in Georgia Tech’s world class clinical and fabrication laboratories. Students’ learning is guided first and foremost by board certified Prosthetists and Orthotists while being supplemented by a host of additional specialists (i.e., physicians, surgeons, physical and occupational therapists and others). In addition to on-site clinical training in all of the core clinical patient care domains and technical device design and fabrication domains, students also participate in uniquely arranged off-campus clinical and technical learning to solidify their knowledge and skills.

The off campus clinical experiences (known as clinical practica) are designed to translate concepts of patient assessment and treatment learned in the classroom and fabrication laboratories through observing and participating in supervised clinical patient care facilities lead by credentialed clinicians. This process occurs first at the Veteran’s Affairs Hospital and Medical center where students learn patient assessment and treatment in an outpatient setting under the guidance of physicians in order to familiarize MSPO students with their future physician referral sources and to establish a baseline of core knowledge in clinically relevant normal and pathological human systems physiology. After a baseline of core medical physiology and related concepts are attained in the first semester, the remaining semesters target the students’ knowledge and clinical experience in core prosthetics, orthotics and pedorthics domains via clinical off campus rotations in institutional and private practice Prosthetics and Orthotics outpatient facilities.

The Most Rigorous Clinically Relevant Science in P&O in the Nation

Another important and unique aspect of the Georgia Tech MSPO program is that students engage in some of the most rigorous and clinically relevant research in the nation. Students in the MSPO program actively participate in faculty directed research that is organized by Prosthetist and Orthotist faculty according to a theme of topics relevant to the clinician and scientist. The research mission of the MSPO program is to empower students with knowledge and skills to bridge the gap between the clinical practitioner and research scientist. Students achieve this by actively participating in a focused novel research investigation aimed at improving understanding of prosthesis/orthosis device-user interface. Knowledge in this area that is advanced by clinically relevant science will effectively drive engineering design of orthoses and prostheses and rehabilitation treatment planning to effectively target the needs of persons who utilize this unique and complex wearable technology.

This important research experience begins at the end of the first semester through a process of matching the student’s interests to a research laboratory investigator’s line of research. Students then participate with investigators in a supervised laboratory research experience over the course of the remaining three semesters of the MSPO program. The research experience culminates with a presentation of the student’s work at the Capstone Research Presentation Day held at Georgia Tech and attended by the faculty, as well as the P&O clinical community and users of the technology. Most of the students’ research is of the highest level of rigor in the P&O profession and has been recognized through numerous research awards and publications in peer reviewed scientific journals. In this regard, students actively add to the body of knowledge in the P&O profession even before they enter the profession.

MSPO Program Highlights Summary:

    • World class facilities – the program is housed in the new School of Applied Physiology building that underwent a $5.4 million expansion
    • Unique clinical practica – the program weaves supervised clinical experiences in medicine, prosthetics, orthotics, pedorthics, physical and occupational therapy in top facilities in the Atlanta metro area, as well as across the nation and in Belize.
    • Clinically relevant innovative research with top scientists. The program weaves science experiences cutting edge research laboratories where students balance learning to become clinical practitioners while also engaging in new scientific discoveries lead by well established investigator faculty.
    • Networking experiences for residency placement
    • Positioning students for expanded career options. An MSPO graduate degree from Georgia Tech positions students well for many career options, including clinical practice, research and development, product design and manufacture, academic and clinical research, teaching in P&O, or a terminal academic degree (i.e. Ph.D., M.D.) in a related discipline.
    • The establishment of the PhD program in Applied Physiology with emphasis in Prosthetics and Orthotics allows graduates of the MSPO Program the option to advance their studies to a terminal academic degree with a focus on Prosthetics and/or Orthotics.

Despite the economic challenges of the current economy, the job market in P&O remains strong, and employers are seeking graduates to fill positions. Our graduates are some of the most sought after individuals for hire in the P&O profession.