Living with arthritis can be tough especially when you are someone who enjoys being active. Just ask Vivian, a 65-year old from Kitchener who suffers from Osteoarthritis of the knee and big toe joints. Osteoarthritis is the most common joint disorder and typically occurs due to age or wear/tear on joints. For people that enjoy being active the resulting pain associated with the affected joints can make simple activities such as walking and standing troublesome. Vivian enjoyed walking and playing darts with friends. She said her “knees become so sore and painful that I could hardly stand to play darts let alone enjoy walks”. The pain eventually became so severe that she elected to have the right knee replaced. Following surgery, Vivian tried to be moreactive to help with the recovery but still had pain in her knee and was recommended custom made orthotics by her family physician.
When some pedorthists make their career switch to our wonderful industry, they do so with an eye to their own background. Being an athletic individual and growing up in the environment he did, one cannot be surprised that Mark McColman of Vancouver came into the industry as his ultimate career move.
Growing up in Brantford, Mark began working in his father’s sporting goods store at the age of 12. From that early time, Mark learned the value of good customer service, which he would later translate into a career in mechanics before switching over to biomechanics. He then went on to study Kinesiology at the University of Waterloo and began his career in pedorthics.
But fate worked in an interesting way for Mark; during a European trip, he found himself mountain climbing in Switzerland with a Vancouver native. The discussion between the two turned to life in the British Columbia metropolis, a city that piqued Mark’s curiosity enough for him to decide to make the trek across Canada to set up shop there.
With a “let’s go see if I can make this work” attitude, Mark took a ski trip out west in 1990 to evaluate this opportunity. He found that it would be, as he later described, the “ultimate challenge” and met it head on. Soon after arriving in Vancouver, Mark founded Kintec Orthotics.
Now, two decades later, the business has grown from its founding format. Now called Kintec Performance Footwear and Orthotics, the company has experienced a strong rate of growth in both the Clinic and Lab Service areas. Mark comments, however, that the expansion was not an immediate move; rather, it was a “slow burn” style of growth.
In taking his business to a higher level, Mark made an important business decision. Sacrificing his vision of a larger scale venture, he instead kept his focus on ensuring that he had the best products and services available in the Vancouver market, insisting on quality over quantity.
The quality is not just related to the technology available at Kintec. It also, if not more so, has to do with the people he has brought in to be part of his team. Mark comments that he is insistent on maintaining high standards in his office, ensuring that he has the best team available for his clients. As part of this credo, Mark and his team have instituted one of the best training and support programs available in the industry.
That team mentality isn’t just limited to his business.
Outside of Kintec, Mark enjoys hockey and baseball and, when he’s not on the ice or diamond himself, he can be found behind the bench, coaching his nine and six-year-old sons’ teams. Mark still enjoys his solo pursuits, however, which include racing motorcycles, kite boarding, skiing and fishing. He has competed in international events in motocross, road racing and trials. He notes that the key to success in motorcycle racing is just as it is in business – preparation and commitment.
As a Kinesiology student, Amy Guest wasn’t aware of the world of pedorthics, but when this PAC member was introduced to the industry, she fell in love right away.
After finishing her degree, Amy first went into personal training. Later, however, she craved a new direction; one that she found by hearing a radio advert from longtime PAC executive board member, Linda Deschamps.
Amy first joined Linda’s team as a receptionist, but would make her way up through the profession, first becoming an apprentice.“I realized how interesting it was – how much I liked it and that this is what I wanted to do,” she says. What was it that truly drew Amy in though? “It was probably, overall, her (Linda’s) enthusiasm for the field,” Amy says. “She’s so involved; she’s on the board and she’s a teacher for the courses at Western… she just has really big love for the field.”
Amy also enjoys the uniqueness of pedorthics. She points out that her favourite aspect is that working in pedorthics isn’t just being in a clinic – instead, there’s a variety to her day, where she is interacting with patients and working with machinery in back areas of the shop she works in.
Of course, Amy’s background in physical training and athletics has helped her immensely in pedorthics. Amy’s mother was a trainer as well, so getting into the training world was an easy step; but it was pedorthics that was her ultimate destination. One aspect that she did not change, however, was her desire to stay in Kingston. The only time she was away was for her aforementioned Kinesiology degree, which saw her stay in St. Catherines while attending Brock University.
When she’s not working, Amy is a true watersport aficionado. She’s a former sailing instructor and, along with her fiancé, enjoys wakeboarding and using their powerboat. This experience, along with other active pursuits that Amy has enjoyed over her lifetime, has helped her care for her clients. “My athletic background has helped me understand what people are talking about,” she says. I’ve been through my fair share of foot and knee pain and all the things we see on a daily basis. When people explain what they are going through and the movements they have to do, it’s really nice to know about sports and running and all the activities people are involved in, both from my athletic, training background and my Kinesiology degree.”
Outside of boating and other watersports, Amy takes time to go camping, plays ball hockey and baseball, and enjoys skiing and snowmobiling during winter.
For Jennifer Gould Andrew, entering the world of pedorthics was a path that came from curiosity
after a personal need. “I had gone in to see a doctor about some knee pain and he told me I needed orthotics. I was devastated – I thought I had something old people got!” she says with a laugh.
But, as it turns out, the prescribed orthotics were (forgive the pun) just what the doctor ordered. “They were a miracle cure that fixed me immediately,” she says.
The Pedorthist who worked on Jenn’s orthotics was Kim Rau. A year after the initial consult, Jenn began volunteering with Kim, with an interest in learning more about orthotics and working in the pedorthic services lab.
Already Jenn was pursuing a degree in Kinesiology at the University of Waterloo, having left her home near Thunder Bay, Ontario. While she can’t put her finger on an exact reason for wanting to work in Kin, she remarks that she always had a desire to work with people and that her strength was in the sciences.
So, despite contrary advice from her high school guidance counselor, Jenn pursued her Kinesiology degree and graduated in 1997. While she was completing her degree, she spent summers working in the Pedorthic Services Lab and in clinic with Kim Rau. When she graduated, she immediately started working with all the Pedorthists in Pedorthic Services, soon moving to London to take over a practice there. She stayed in London up until two years ago, when she and her husband decided they were ready for a lifestyle change.
Meanwhile, Jonathan Robinson, owner of ABLE Orthotics in Fredericton, NB, and Jenn were sitting on the PAC board together. For the three years that we were on that board together, he kept telling me that he needed someone to come out to help him,” she recalls. When my husband and I were ready for a lifestyle change, we decided to move out east and I began to work with Jonathan at ABLE.
To some, such a move may be intimidating, but not for Jennifer who attributes her upbringing to being able to easily settle into her new surroundings. “I grew up in a rural part of Ontario – very small town with a very outdoor lifestyle – so in some sense it was like moving back home, even though I went in the other direction,” she says.
It is that accessibility that has been especially favourable for Jenn, who describes downtime these days as family activity with two young ones. “We have a three year-old and a five year-old, so most of our time is spent running around with children,” she says candidly. “We’re loving family life.”
“Out here, the outdoors is so accessible. You just walk outside and there are walking paths everywhere,” she adds. “My husband and I love to hike. We haven’t gone on any big adventures just the two of us yet, but we do little family trips to a lake nearby and the ocean is just an hour away.”
Jennifer’s other time outside the office is dedicated to the larger scope of the pedorthic world. She is actively involved in PAC and teaches a course at UWO during the fall as part of the diploma program, and while she admits to having been hesitant at first to take on this role, she has embraced it fully and loves having the position as part of professional life in the world of pedorthics.