O&P Woman of the Year
OPGA is Proud to Announce its 7th Annual O&P Woman of the Year Award Winner, Nikki Grace-Strader!
Nikki Grace-Strader, Director of North American Operations with Osseointegration International, Inc.
Nikki's journey is a remarkable testament to the profound impact of personal experience and unwavering determination. She has transitioned from overcoming her own challenges as an amputee to becoming a dedicated advocate and leader in osseointegration education in the O&P field.
In her role as the Director of North American Operations for Osseointegration International, Nikki offers support to amputees worldwide. Her intimate familiarity with the physical and emotional complexities of limb loss allows her to connect deeply with patients. By offering guidance and resources, she empowers individuals to navigate the process of exploring and obtaining osseointegration surgery, fostering a sense of empowerment and optimism in their personal journeys.
Nikki's commitment goes further with her establishment of Central Illinois Amputees. By recognizing and addressing the specific challenges faced by amputees in rural areas, she has proactively bridged gaps in access to care. Through her nonprofit organization, Nikki not only improves the lives of individual amputees but also raises awareness about the distinctive needs of these communities. Her efforts encompass providing resources, advocacy, education, and a sense of belonging.
Her adeptness at advocacy, both nationally and locally, underscores her genuine empathy, thoughtful approach, and dedication to meaningful change. Nikki's personal experience has undoubtedly shaped her viewpoint, granting her a unique voice in championing emerging technology, prosthetics, patient care, and access to services. Concurrently, she is a staunch advocate for ensuring that the O&P profession receives the essential support and resources needed to provide exemplary patient care in a sustainable manner.
Nikki's journey is a source of inspiration, highlighting the profound impact that a committed individual can make on countless lives. In a field where innovation and understanding are crucial, her story stands as a shining illustration of how personal experience can drive forward progress, shape policies, and uplift communities. Her ongoing contributions are actively reshaping the landscape of O&P and osseointegration, leaving behind a lasting legacy of empowerment and support for both the O&P profession and the limb loss community.
Open to all women in the profession, the O&P Woman of the Year Award is presented to someone who has made significant contributions to her patients, community, business, and the O&P profession throughout her career. Congratulations, Nikki!
MEET THE FINALISTSAward Details and Selection ProcessPAST WINNERSSELECTION COMMITTEE
Meet The Finalists
Charu Bhanti, Co-Founder of CPO Services, Inc.
Charu Bhanti, co-founder of CPO Services, Inc., has made significant and diverse contributions to the orthotics and prosthetics (O&P) field. With over two decades of experience, she has established herself as a respected professional with a deep understanding of challenges and opportunities in the profession.
Charu's reputation is marked by her exceptional skills, focus on patient-centered care, and leadership qualities. She is highly regarded among colleagues, patients, and peers for her compassionate approach and extensive knowledge. Patients consistently praise her dedication to their well-being, built on effective communication and tailored solutions.
In both her professional and personal life, Charu exhibits an unwavering commitment to service and leadership. She believes in treating everyone with dignity and respect, actively seeking roles aligned with her values to make meaningful contributions. Her leadership style emphasizes inclusivity, transparency, and fostering personal growth.
Charu's determination and innovative thinking have addressed challenges in the O&P segment. She pioneered telehealth solutions to overcome accessibility barriers, bridging the gap between patients and clinicians at CPO.
In conclusion, Charu Bhanti's contributions encompass extensive experience, patient-centered care, leadership, innovation, and dedication to service. Her impact on colleagues, patients, and the profession solidify her as a deserving candidate for recognition and acknowledgment. Her passion for making a positive impact on others' lives shines through both her professional and personal endeavors, shaping her interactions and leaving a lasting impression.
Marita Dorsch-Carozza CP, FAAOP, Senior Surveyor with American Board for Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics & Pedorthics, Inc. (ABC)
Marita is the fourth generation to work in O&P, with seven family member practitioners. Her mother, Mary Dorsch, CPO, the first female credentialed in O&P.
Marita started working at Dorsch Prosthetics & Othotics after graduating high school. Her job description was to do it all, from organization and management to marketing. She then graduated to President of the company. During that time, she received my bachelor's in psychology and went on to attend NYU and Northwestern. Years later, Northwestern awarded her the Distinguished Alumnae Award.
In 1996, Marita also started becoming a volunteer facility accreditation surveyor, which progressed to partnership with Ted Markgren, CO in managing ABC's Facility Accreditation site surveyors and surveys. They provided that service for seven years. Training the surveyors with the importance of surveying and educating the sites was part of their mission. Having owned a company first and then becoming a practitioner reinforced to Marita to believe "Documentation =Validation." She still continues to work as a surveyor because of the sincere admiration and pride she have for the profession and the practitioners.
One thing she always says at the sites is to remember no matter how busy and crazy the day or week gets, "How awesome it is to make someone walk."
Teri Kuffel, JD, Vice President and Founding Co-Owner of Arise O&P and President of AOPA
Teri is the Vice President and founding co-owner at Arise Orthotics & Prosthetics, Inc. where she controls and manages all business operations. She earned her juris doctorate from Mitchell Hamline College of Law in St, Paul, MN. She is the current President of the American Orthotic and Prosthetic Association (AOPA). She serves as a director on the board of the Minnesota Society of Orthotists, Prosthetists and Pedorthists (MSOPP). She serves as a director on the board of Wiggle Your Toes, an amputee non-profit organization. She has also been an instructor for the Master’s program in Prosthetics & Orthotics at Concordia University in St. Paul, MN since its inception in 2016. She has worked in the O&P profession with contract, human resource, legal compliance, and organizational management since 1999. She has been an AOPA state representative for more than a decade and is a recipient of AOPA’s 2015 Ralph R. “Ronney” Snell, CPO, FAAOP, Legislative Advocacy Award for her O&P advocacy work. She is currently part of the MN team leading the So Every Body Can Move legislation that was introduced in 2023 and seeks to improve access to O&P care for individuals of all ages who have limb loss and limb difference.
Award Details and Selection Process
Every year, OPGA organizes the Woman of the Year award campaign, and a selection committee made up of O&P professionals is tasked to select the winner. The award was presented during the 2023 AOPA National Assembly in the OPGA booth #405 on Thursday, September 7 at 9:45 a.m. ET.
Kenton R. Kaufman, Ph.D., P.E.
Dr. Kenton Kaufman is the W Hall Wendel Jr Musculoskeletal Research Professor, Director-Motion Analysis Laboratory, Professor of Bioengineering, Professor of Orthopedics, and Consultant in the Departments of Orthopedic Surgery, Physiology and Biomedical Engineering at Mayo Clinic. He is a registered professional engineer. He has published over 300 papers and holds 8 patents. He is a Fellow in the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, American Society of Biomechanics, American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Orthopedic Research Society, and International Society of Biomechanics. Dr. Kaufman currently serves on the Medical Advisory Board for the American Orthotic and Prosthetic Association. He is leading an effort to develop a national Limb Loss and Preservation Registry.
Lesleigh Sisson CFo, CFm
Lesleigh Sisson, the founder of O&P Insight, has been part of the orthotics and prosthetics profession since 1992. She started O&P Insight because she cares deeply about three things: helping people thrive in their professional lives, advancing the profession for patients & practitioners and leaving a legacy of lives impacted for the better. While she has always had a love of teaching and helping others, it was working in administrative and clinical support roles when Lesleigh recognized the desire to assist dedicated professionals working toward this common goal: providing excellent patient care while achieving the best possible health for the business. Lesleigh helps independent O&P practices to not only survive but also to thrive in today’s challenging and ever-changing healthcare environment with its demands for efficient work flow, revenue cycle solutions and successful compliance.
Michael A. Sotak
Mike is currently President and CEO at PEL, LLC, the leading independent O&P distributor providing solutions to independent practitioners in the US. Prior to joining PEL ten years ago, he was a senior executive and corporate officer with extensive domestic and international experience in manufacturing, distribution, service, and retail. He has more than 35 years of experience in the medical industry including pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and orthotics and prosthetics. Michael is consistently recognized for his ability to articulate a vision and drive business solutions within complex and challenging environments to yield both top and bottom line growth. He is a business strategist with a unique ability to reposition businesses resulting in significant increases to both scale and efficiency.
Nicole Ver Kuilen
Nicole Ver Kuilen lost her left leg to osteosarcoma at age 10 and has made it her life’s goal to raise the standard of care for all amputees. As a prosthesis user for over two decades, she knows firsthand how orthotic and prosthetic care transforms lives. It’s this experience that initially propelled her into the world of O&P, leading a grassroots effort to raise awareness on the lack of access to appropriate prosthetic and orthotic care necessary to support physical activity among people with disabilities, a campaign she called “Forrest Stump” after completing a 1,500-mile ultra-triathlon from Seattle to San Diego on a prosthesis built only for walking. Since then, she has taken her commitment to improving the quality of life for people with limb loss and limb difference nationally as the inaugural NAAOP health policy and advocacy fellow, and globally, through her work in Latin American countries with the Range of Motion Project. Nicole now serves as the Manager of Public Engagement with the American Orthotic & Prosthetic Association (AOPA) where she is helping to spearhead a new state-based policy initiative, So Kids Can Move, working to expand access to prostheses and orthoses utilized for physical activity as medically necessary healthcare. Prior to O&P, Nicole pursued a career in sustainability and is a proud graduate of the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business with a bachelors of business administration. When she's not attempting to move mountains, she enjoys hiking, biking, and skiing them with her fiancé, which is one of the many reasons she loves calling the PNW her home.