ETSU launches orthotics and prosthetics program, first-of-its-kind in Tennessee

Published 11:09 am Wednesday, June 26, 2024

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East Tennessee State University celebrated the launch of its orthotics and prosthetics program on Tuesday – the first of its kind in Tennessee and just the 14th program in the nation.

“Since I joined the university in 2023, I have been counting down the days to this moment,” said Dr. Kyle Leister, ETSU’s orthotics and prosthetics program director. “This is an exciting moment not just for ETSU, but for the entire state. There is a growing demand for certified orthotists and prosthetists nationally, and we are eager to do our part in training the next generation of practitioners.” 

Tuesday also marked the ribbon cutting for the Karl Fillauer Learning Center in Charles Ed Allen Hall (Building 2) on the campus of the Quillen VA Medical Center, where students will learn to use state-of-the-art equipment to craft custom orthotic and prosthetic devices. It is named for Karl Fillauer, former board chairman of Fillauer Companies Inc., a leading manufacturer of orthotics and prosthetics in the United States based in Chattanooga. 

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“What began as a dream to expand our portfolio to meet the rising national demand for orthotics and prosthetics practitioners has materialized into a program that is the first of its kind in Tennessee,” said Dr. Kimberly D. McCorkle, ETSU provost and senior vice president for academics. “Working with our community partners, we provide the region with well-trained professionals for our health care systems and health care education. This new program helps us continue and strengthen that tradition.” 

Nationwide, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment of orthotists and prosthetists to increase by 15% from 2022-32 – much faster than the average growth rate for all occupations.   

“It is fitting that this program is housed here at ETSU,” said ETSU President Dr. Brian Noland. “Through close collaboration with partners such as the VA hospital and Ballad Health, ETSU Health has emerged as a national leader in driving innovations in health care, particularly for underserved and high-need communities. 

“East Tennessee State University was founded in 1911 with a singular mission: to improve the quality of life for people in Appalachia and beyond,” said Noland. “Since our institution’s very beginning, we have pursued that mission relentlessly, recognizing that our success in fulfilling it lies in working hand-in-hand with the communities we serve.” 

The Master of Science in Orthotics and Prosthetics is a two-year advanced degree that will offer a unique and comprehensive curriculum to equip students with the knowledge, skills and techniques necessary to excel in the field of orthotics and prosthetics. It will emphasize interprofessional collaboration and promote teamwork with other health care disciplines to enhance patient outcomes.

“The field of orthotics and prosthetics has been my life’s work, and it is a great honor to be part of the launch of the new orthotics and prosthetics program at East Tennessee State University,” said Karl Fillauer. “I hope this new program and state-of-the-art facility will inspire students to innovate and develop even more ways to empower those in the limb loss and limb difference community.” 

“As the CEO of Fillauer and a proud member of our family-founded company, we are so grateful to East Tennessee State University for recognizing my father and his invaluable contributions to the industry by naming the learning center in his honor,” said Michael Fillauer. “Our family roots run deep in Tennessee, with four generations of the Fillauer family having worked in the orthotics and prosthetics field, and now as a global brand headquartered in the state. 

“It is an exciting time to be in O&P, and with ETSU becoming one of only 14 pivotal O&P programs across the country, this milestone provides a new generation of young people an opportunity to do rewarding work in a field that continues to grow.” 

This new program will increase opportunities for students at ETSU to gain valuable, hands-on experience and add to the university’s impressive roster of health sciences programs across five health sciences colleges. 

“At the heart of our college is a commitment to training students to be practice-ready, and this program fits squarely in line with that mission,” said Dr. Lynn Williams, interim dean for the ETSU College of Health Sciences. “Our college is home to more than a dozen in-demand health sciences programs and we are delighted to add this program to our stable of degree offerings for students.” 

Applications for the first cohort, which will begin in January 2025, are open until Sept. 1.