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January 12, 2006
DH 06 RH01
Contact: Russ Hudson,
Media Relations Coordinator
(310) 243-2455/2001

DOD Puts $575,000 into CSUDH Prosthetics-Orthotics Program

Carson, CA—The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) awarded $575,000 in November, 2005 to the California State University Dominguez Hills Orthotics and Prosthetics Program. The first of the funds were received in late December and are already being used to expand the facilities at the Ossur North America Inc. center in Aliso Viejo and to make room for more students. When the expansion is complete, the CSUDH program will be producing 48 graduates a year, or between 20 percent and 25 percent of all the prosthetics and orthotics graduates in the United States. The program now is producing about 15 percent of the nation’s graduates and is considered the premier program.

The Department of Defense has been willing to earmark the funds for the program because of what it could mean for veterans, says Scott Hornbeak, clinical professor of health sciences and coordinator of the Orthotics and Prosthetics Program. Hornbeak is also a Certified Prosthetist Orthotist and is a 25-year veteran of the business world, including as a vice president for six years of a prosthesis company, NovaCare Inc.

This is the second time the DOD awarded these funds to the 20-year-old program, the last time in mid-2004, also $575,000.

“That Department of Defense money is for the growth of this program,” said the pleased and enthusiastic Hornbeak. “What we’re doing is growing from 28 graduates a year to 48 graduates a year.  We will grow four people [a year] in prosthetics, which is the artificial-limb side, and 16 a year in orthotics, which is the braces side. That is, external braces, such as for scoliosis.

 Christopher Cox, now head of the Securities and Exchange Commission, put in a good word for the university’s program when he was a congressman, Hornbeak says, as did Jerry Lewis (R-CA, 41st). “Lewis is the chair of the House Committee on Appropriations, and he wrote funding for these things into a bill and earmarked some money for our program,” Hornbeak says. “He especially had in mind how our work could help the veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq, but there are also all the people in the world who are victims of disaster, or uncleared land mines, or industrial accidents.”

Also throwing their support behind the funding, Hornbeak says, was Senator [Dianne] Feinstein (D-CA) and Ossur. “[Congresswoman] Juanita Millender-McDonald [D-CA, 37th] has also supported us,” he points out.

Ossur, an international prosthetics and orthotics company based in Iceland, is donating the use of several tens of thousands of dollars worth of rooms, facilities, and equipment at its Aliso Viejo center to the CSUDH program. That is in addition to the approximately $300,000 Ossur spent to build the custom training facility, patient examination area, utilities, and other outlays in support of the CSUDH program.

The Department of Defense funding is for one year, Hornbeak says, but he intends to spread it over three years “because you just can’t complete what we’re planning in a year.” Much of it, however, will be spent in the first 12 months on expanded facilities. “To request funds such as these, you have to submit a substantial proposal, very much like a grant proposal. Also, like a grant proposal, it must have a scientific basis and there must be a product at the end. We will be submitting a report on what it takes, and what actually happens, when you grow a program such as ours as much as we’re going to grow it. We’ll be including such things as what the differences are in administration, teaching, curriculum, equipment, and scheduling.”

The program coordinator says there will be documentation of all aspects as the growth continues, and much of it will be centered on the students: “Student-centered outcome is the name of the game, and we’re refining and developing more outcome-oriented tools, then testing what we do, and making sure the students learn.”

The students are given the material in three ways, Hornbeak says. With everything taught at the center, he says, “there is always lecture, always demonstration, and always laboratory. It covers the different ways learners prefer to learn. Some do better listening, some by watching, some by doing, and most by a combination.”

Whatever a student’s preferred way of learning, hands-on is also the name of the game. “We’re very hands-on here,” he says, walking by the rows of lifelike foot shells of various shades of colors that go over the carbon-fiber mechanisms inside, shelves and boxes of  state-of-the-art manufactured knee joints donated by companies around the world, molds, pads, braces, grinders, molders, and tables with specialized vices and other tools. “The students actually make the products here. We don’t yet have the ability to cover them with insurance or do the follow up, so we can’t actually deliver them to users. It’s part of the reason this program is so expensive, and why we appreciate all the support we’ve been given. These things need a lot of components.”

If what the students produce cannot be insured, and if follow-up support can’t be provided to those who use the prosthetics and orthotics, then they cannot be sold, or even donated. Unless that situation changes, whatever is produced is produced strictly for learning purposes.

“But,” Hornbeak points out, his enthusiasm never waning, “when the students leave here, they get a lot of job offers. There aren’t nearly enough practitioners in the United States. Some of our students—and instructors, for that matter—also work in Hollywood.” One instructor, Glen Ham-Rosebruck, a 38-year practitioner and a victim of polio when he was five months old, made the leg braces used by actor Jon Voight when he portrayed Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the 2001 movie “Pearl Harbor.”

“When they leave here, Hornbeak says, “they go into residency. What they do here is called primary education. They get a bachelor’s degree, then they come here for the clinical part, then they go into a residency. But, once they leave here, because we teach in three different ways and have lots of hands-on, they can do the work, both in prosthetics and orthotics. They can see patients. But they have to work under supervision for awhile and get the practical experience.” The residents are paid, as in the medical model of residency, the program coordinator says. It is one year of residency for each discipline. “If they decide to go into both prosthetics and orthotics, as I did, then it would be two years of residency,” he said. “We have a lot of students who go from here to Hanger Orthopedic Group Incorporated, which bought NovaCare a few years ago. Mine is a trusted name there, they know me and my students. Well, in fact, there are only about 5,000 practitioners in the entire U.S. right now, so most of us know each other.

“I’ll tell you our plans,” said the coordinator, his enthusiasm still bubbling high. “In three years we want this to be a master’s program. Right now, it’s a six-month certificate program for those students who already have a bachelor’s degree, or it is a bachelor’s degree in Health Science, Prosthetics Option. That’s another reason I want to document all of the outcomes for the report that we will be submitting in three years, to prepare the program for a master’s degree.

“Sometime before the three years are up, I’m hoping we get permission to go for more funding,” Hornbeak says. “Funding to be able to keep the program at a high level and funding to start a master’s degree program. We just have to make sure this continues to be seen as a worthy program.”

California State University, Dominguez Hills
University Communications & Public Affairs
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Dominguez Hills Dateline is produced by University Advancement/ University Communications
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Media Contact:

Russell Hudson
University Communications
& Public Affairs
(310) 243-2455


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Last updated January 12, 2006, 3:05 p.m.,
by Joanie Harmon