100 years of AOPA and O&P


The Beginnings of O&P


Before the Civil War, few artificial limb companies existed in the United States. However, the carnage of the Civil War and subsequent wars dramatically increased the need for artificial limbs. Thus, limb companies were started, generally by amputees who were dissatisfied with available prostheses.


ALMA is Formed


The American Orthotic and Prosthetic Association (AOPA) originated in 1917 in Washington, D.C., as the Artificial Limb Manufacturers Association of America (ALMA). Anticipating World War I casualties would require prosthetic treatment, the Council of National Defense and artificial limb companies met to prepare the profession to meet those needs.


AOPA Publishes Amputation Manual for Surgeons


In 1935, AOPA publishes a manual "Amputations from the Standpoint of a Sucessful Prosthesis", an instruction manual for surgeons performing amputations.


ABC is Formed

ABC logo

In 1948 the OALMA recommended the formation of an organization whose responsibility would be to establish minimum requirements for the operation of a limb or brace facility to ensure that patients would receive adequate service. After informal discussions with the department of Justice, the American Board for Certification of the Prosthetic and Orthopedic Appliance Industry, Inc., was formed. In October 1959 the name was changed to the American Board for Certification in Orthotics and Prosthetics, Inc. and in 2007, the name was changed once again to incorporate the certification of Pedorthists.


New Fellowship


The Mellon Institute established a Fellowship on Orthopedic Appliances under the auspices of the Sarah Mellon Scaife Foundation. The Mellon Institute hosted the 1948 OALMA Annual Meeting.


Prosthetic Training

20 short courses for the fitting of suction-socket above-knee prostheses were presented in various parts of the US by the VA in cooperation with OALMA, in the first large scale effort for training prosthetists.


Government Encroachment


Government Encroachment was a huge concern to AOPA members.

ABC Certification


In May of 1951, the first certification examinations were administered in New York City to twenty-one candidates. Additional examinations were conducted in 1951 in Atlanta, Los Angeles and Chicago. Overall 67 applicants took these examinations of which 51 were certified. Today over 7,500 practitioners are ABC-certified.

1952 AOPA National Assembly


Washington, DC


Rehabilitation International

In 1952, the International Society for the Rehabilitation of the Disabled (now called Rehabilitation International) appointed an International Committee on Prosthetics and Orthotics (ICPO) to promote the dissemination of knowledge of prosthetics and orthotics throughout the world. The chairman was Knud Jansen, and headquarters for the committee was established in Copenhagen, where a number of very successful international seminars were conducted in the late 1950s and 1960s. The committee also sponsored courses and conferences at other locations during this period, and in 1971, with the concurrence of Rehabilitation International, the members of the committee and others formed the International Society for Prosthetics and Orthotics (ISPO) "to promote high quality prosthetics and orthotics care to all people with neuromuscular and skeletal disabilities." ISPO, an organization of all professionals associated with prosthetics and orthotics, conducts an international congress at 2-year intervals to bring together clinicians, educators, research personnel, and administrators to exchange information and ideas and to make plans for cooperative programs.


High School Diploma Required

The minimum requirement of a high school diploma was established to sit for the certification examination.


Requirements Waived

Due to the lack of manpower in the profession, individuals with fifteen years of experience were allowed to sit for the certification examination.

The decision was made to waive requirements until facilities, colleges and universities could gear up to train an increased number of candidates.




In 1966, the Association changed its name from the OALMA to the American Orthotic and Prosthetic Association (AOPA).


Guidelines Established

Also in the 1960s, the Association, supported by the Committee for Prosthetic-Orthotic Education of the National Research Council, gathered the first national data on the O&P field, which helped establish guidelines for practitioner education and recruitment.


Ponte Vedra Workshops

Ponte Vedra

In June 1970, a number of distinguished leaders from health, education, and other professional fields met in Ponte Vedra, Florida, under the chairmanship of Dr. Warren Perry of the National Academy of Science to evaluate the status of prosthetic and orthotic education in the U.S. and to plan future training for practitioners in those two disciplines. Results concluded that a four-year baccalaureate should be required. The results became known as the ten-year plan. In 1976, ABC, AOPA and the Academy held Ponte Vedra II at the five year mark of the plan.


The Academy is Formed


On July 27, Ronney Snell and Sam Hamontree called a meeting to order (Commadore Hotel, New York) to discuss the possibility of starting an educational society to later become the American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists. On November 16, the Certificate of Incorporation was granted for American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists.


BOC is Formed


The Board of Certification/Accreditation (BOC) was founded in 1984 as an independent, not-for-profit agency dedicated to meeting the demands for quality patient care by offering highly valued credentials for professionals and suppliers of comprehensive orthotic and prosthetic (O&P) care and durable medical equipment (DME) services


O&P Separated from DME

Legislative efforts paid off in 1990 when an amendment to the Social Security Act classified O&P as a unique category of provider, separate from DME for reimbursement purposes. The advocacy effort has continued since that time to further seek recognition for O&P clinicians as allied healthcare providers whose expertise should also be part of the patient’s medical record.


AOPA Leadership Conference


AOPA hosted a Leadership Conference in 2006 with the theme of "Developing a Shared Vision"


Executive Director Tom Fise Joins AOPA


Executive Director Tom Fise joined AOPA in 2007 and celebrates his 10 year anniversary at AOPA during AOPA's Centennial. He came to AOPA after serving as owner and principal of an association management company. In that capacity he worked simultaneously as executive director of ten different physician organizations in the fields of cardiovascular surgery, general surgery and plastic surgery, as well as the executive director of the American College of Gastroenterology.