May 19, 2014
Orthotist and prosthetist personally relates to patients
By Jordan Swope
The University Record
Topic: Campus News
Mark Taylor is no stranger to the symptoms he sees in his patients at the University of Michigan Orthotics and Prosthetics Center. As a post-polio patient, he knows what it's like to live with them.
When Taylor was about 8 years old, he would go out to the family barn and use scrap pieces of leather or nails to fix the leg braces that helped him walk. Later in life, Taylor went on a two-year mission. While in Japan he noticed that several people had disabilities similar to his, but didn't have the same access to modern bracing. Some wore sticks wrapped with cloth around their legs.
"I can help these people," he thought.
It was the beginning of a journey that has led him to where he is today — working as an orthotist and prosthetist.
Mark Taylor helps to improve patients' quality of life, and connects on a personal level.
"I enjoy working here because the potential is phenomenal," Taylor says.
Taylor came to U-M nearly 21 years ago and has worked in the field for more than 40 years. He jokes that he has, involuntarily, been a part of the field since contracting polio as a child. He works as a senior practitioner, not only helping to improve patients' quality of life, but connecting with them on a personal level. Although he conducts research, as well, Taylor notes that his skill is in patient care.
The center includes a polio clinic, which serves polio patients from all over the upper Midwest, as well as younger patients that have come from Third World countries where polio vaccination is not available.
With ever-evolving technology, Taylor says that quality of life is improving for patients.
"Some of this technology is right underneath our feet here at the university," he says of the work that the School of Kinesiology, College of Engineering and others are doing to enhance the technology. "All of these departments talk to each other, to work together as we climb the ladder of technology — using it, understanding it and being able to develop it so that patients can use it."
This technology is visibly improving patients' lives, Taylor said. Plastic has been a huge part of making more cosmetic prosthetic fittings for patients. For example, with plastic prosthetics patients can wear normal shoes, versus having to wear orthopedic shoes.
Another one of Taylor's patients is a young man who has suffered a spinal cord injury. About to leave on a trip, he asked for a certain foot support so he will be able to wear nice shoes for an interview, and not regular orthopedic tennis shoes.
"All of these people have special needs," Taylor says, emphasizing that even the little details have big impacts on patients' lives.
And it's not just the patients whose lives are improved, but their families as well. Taylor describes his patients as being like a part of the family.
"It's not like we see a patient, do surgery, and they're gone. I've grown up with some of these kids that are now adults, and some of the adults I've worked with are now geriatrics, and you just become a member of the family. You build long-lasting relationships," he says.
"It's fun to come to work and be able to help people and go home knowing that you made somebody's quality of life better."