OKMULGEE - Oh, my aching feet!
That refrain is repeated by Oklahomans every day.
Helping to address the problem of sore and aching feet is a program offered at Oklahoma State University's Technical Branch in Okmulgee.
OSU-Okmulgee is emerging as a national leader in Pedorthics Footwear Technology.
From bunions to calluses to ingrown toenails to congenital deformities, disease, overuse, and injury cause a variety of foot problems.
Pedorthists design, manufacture, modify and fit footwear, including footwear inserts, to alleviate those problems.
Pedorthics is a $15 billion-a-year business in the United States.
Sponsoring a range of educational opportunities for beginning, intermediate and advanced pedorthic professionals has positioned OSU-Okmulgee as a national leader in pedorthic education.
The school's program has grown from offering an evening class program to precertification courses, to continuing education courses, and now a degree program in pedorthic footwear technology, said Jerry Wilson, head of OSU-Okmulgee's small business occupations department.
Each semester, OSU-Okmulgee's program attracts students from more than 30 states and from countries including Canada, Japan and China.
This 120-clock-hour program qualifies students to participate in a certification test sponsored by the Board for Certification in Pedorthics. Those who pass are recognized as certified pedorthists, qualified to interpret and implement a physician's prescription for footwear.
More and more people are suffering from foot problems from illfitting shoes.
"I came here because of my retail shoe store. This program has given me a new reason for being in business," student Ralph Baker of Salisbury, N.C., said.
"With the knowledge and skills that I have acquired here at OSU-Okmulgee, I can return to my business knowing I can help people who have special foot problems," Baker said.
Diabetics often have severe foot problems. With the proper care, Wilson said, as many as 70 percent of all foot amputations could be prevented in diabetics.
"Foot care for diabetic patients is the reason I came to OSU-Okmulgee. My goal is to learn how to significantly lower disabling diabetic foot problems and minimize the chance of amputations that are so traumatic to patients," said Lita Scott, a registered nurse who works with an Indian Health Care Service Unit on the Navajo Indian Reservation in Arizona.
OSU-Okmulgee's pedorthic program is aimed at people in a variety of occupations: physical therapists, podiatrists, occupational therapists, nurses, shoe repair technicians and sports medicine personnel.
As Wilson explained, foot injuries are among the most common sports injuries, partly because the foot has so many components: 26 bones and dozens of joints, tendons and muscles.
Pedorthics can help injured athletes during treatment and rehabilitation, allowing them to return to their sport.
Rick Fahnhorst, a prosthetic assistant from St. Cloud, Minn., said he came to OSU-Okmulgee to learn how to make accommodative shoes for his patients.
"The techniques that I have learned here give me the measurement and fabrication skills I need to work with artificial feet, giving the patient greater mobility and a more natural appearance," Fahnhorst said.
In the program, students learn how to gather background information on a patient by identifying, isolating and examining the patient's footwear and associated problems.
They learn to observe gait variations and check pressure points of the foot.
They also learn casting techniques to create custom footwear from plastic, rubber and other materials.
OSU-Okmulgee students enrolled in the two-year associate degree program also are required to participate in a clinical and internship course.
These courses give students the opportunity to practice pedorthic assessment of a patient in a clinical environment.
The Okmulgee program works with the OSU-College of Osteopathic Medicine in Tulsa.
Dr. James Taylor provides training in foot anatomy, pathology of diseases and biomechanics.
Certified pedorthists provide footwear services for all segments of society, from infants to older people.
Treatment includes management of complications related to disease, especially arthritis; diabetes; foot deformities; and injuries.
Pedorthists also help people whose feet don't conform to standard footwear.
A person with arthritis suffering from hammer toes, for example, could find relief from pain through a certified pedorthist.
Instructor Wayne Decker said pedorthists work in many environments, both medical and in specialty shoes stores.
Certified pedorthists work in hospitals, nursing facilities and medical centers, Decker said.
State licensure laws also are creating a demand for footwear educational services.
"I own a shoe repair shop, and we have decided to expand our business to include pedorthic services. That's why I came to OSU-Okmulgee to study pedorthics," student Diana Huston from Okeechobee, Fla., said.
"In Florida, you have to be certified to obtain a license to practice pedorthics, and a number of other states are considering a licensing law, too," she said.
The OSU-Okmulgee program features more than 2,000 square feet of instructional space and is equipped with computer technology that identifies and measures pressure points for pedorthic patients.
Recently the program sponsored a seminar on pedorthic materials in conjunction with the Gotz Co. of Germany.
Last fall, two OSU-Okmulgee faculty members toured Germany, visiting manufacturers and orthopedic shoemaking schools.
Officials are proposing a global partnership and international faculty exchange between OSU-Okmulgee and the Orthopedic Shoemaking School in Germany.
Plans call for distance learning programs via the Internet. BIOG: NAME: UPD:Archive ID: 720352