I’ve always been very active. When I was a child I loved to run and I played a lot of sports. I’m still an avid runner. I don’t run competitively but I just love getting out for a run. However, I’m flat footed and I suffered a number of injuries when I was younger. If it wasn’t for the help I received from a Pedorthist, I would never have been able to continue running.
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.
Working in pedorthics, for some in the industry, can best be described as being second nature; it’s as if they were born to do it.
Never has this been more so the case than with Nick Caravaggio, Jr., a second-generation pedorthist in Peterborough, ON. From an early age, Nick Jr. was already becoming interested in pedorthics, wanting to follow in his father’s foot steps.
“When I was a kid, probably around five years old, I was like most kids who wanted to do what their dad did when they grow up; I didn’t quite understand what he did but I wanted to do it too,” Nick says. “It wasn’t until I was nine or 10 years old and I started to spend more time at his clinic that I began to understand what it was exactly and how important his job was”.
“I think that’s when I really began to fall in love with the profession. It just seemed to be very fascinating work and I thought it was a very good way to make a living because I could help people recover from pain.”
After graduating from Lakefield College School, Nick really began his path to pedorthics. He attended Lakehead University, earning his Bachelor of Science and spent his summers learning the trade alongside Nick Sr. Each year, as he describes, Nick Jr. would learn more and more aspects of the industry.
In particular, Nick Jr. recalls that one of the most important lessons he learned under his father’s guidance was in patient interaction. “Working with people is pretty challenging,” he comments. “It takes quite a lot of experience and its almost an entirely different line of work.
“Sometimes patients can ask some pretty strange questions that can catch you off guard” he adds, remarking that the strategy he was shown is to break down how the human body operates and how a problem can be rectified in a way that the patient(s) can understand.
After Lakehead, Nick Jr. went on to do course work from Western University while working with his father; and this past spring he completed his exams. Now, Nick Jr. and Nick Sr. work side-by-side at Caravaggio Orthotic Therapy Clinic.
But just because school ends, it doesn’t mean the education has as well. Over the last few months, Nick Jr. was mostly watching his father work while getting a good feel for the business end of operating the clinic. The technique has been effective, with 40 years experience. “My dad has probably the most experience of anybody in the Pedorthic profession in Canada so I’m very fortunate to still have him involved as I am still learning from him everyday.” Nick Sr. has developed a close relationship with his clientele. Nick Jr. is slated to take over the operations. It’s a delicate transition to enact, especially when some patients have been used to seeing Nick Sr. for years.
“It has to be a gradual process,” Nick Jr. comments. “The people who he’s been seeing for 10-20 years are so used to dealing with him so naturally it would be hard if a young face suddenly took his place – it might scare them a bit; so our plan right now is to gradually bring me into the fold.”
Outside the office Nick is an avid soccer player and enjoys hitting the gym regularly and spending time with his close friends and his girlfriend Chantel. He’s also a big fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto FC as well his hometown Peterborough Petes junior hockey team.
Originally from Barrie, Ontario, Anne Putnam has travelled around the world in her journey to become a pedorthist. After graduating from Wilfrid Laurier University with her degree in Kinesiology, Anne worked in a physiotherapy clinic, which is where she first noted her interest in lower extremity injuries. Not yet knowing where this interest could lead her, she left Canada to travel and ended up in Australia.
Living in the small town of Curl Curl, north of Sydney, Anne had the beach at the end of her street. She bought a surfboard on her second day in the city and spent most evenings teaching herself to surf. When not riding the waves, Anne worked selling technical footwear at a store called The Athlete’s Foot, similar to Canada’s Running Room. “That was really interesting for me because I got to know a number of different footwear brands prior to coming back and doing my Masters”, notes Anne.
On returning to Canada after a year away, Anne went back to university in 2006 to pursue a Masters degree in Kinesiology, where she specialized in biomechanics. Her interest in lower extremity injuries led her to write a thesis focused on flat-footed individuals and the effects of arch support on different kinematic variables during running. As her research was clinically based, she started working with pedorthist Kim Rau in Kitchener to ensure that her research was clinically appropriate. This was Anne’s first introduction to pedorthics and she was thrilled to discover what she’d been looking for. “I loved research, but I enjoy human interaction and sometimes research can get a little bit lonely!” Anne explained, “When I was introduced to the pedorthics field, I thought this is perfect. You get a lot of lower extremity focus, a lot of footwear education and modification, and the ability to work with your hands too.”
After enrolling in the Diploma in Pedorthics course at UWO, Anne did two practicums with Kim Rau and one with Ryan Robinson, both of whom she has plenty of praise for: “They both really shaped me early on – I owe a lot to them.” After leaving Kitchener and returning to her home town of Barrie ten years after she originally left, Anne worked with Ryan for a year at his clinic before starting out on her own. She now operates her own clinic in Barrie and is part of Pedorthic Services, the collaborative professional group founded by Howard Feigel. Although she admits that she didn’t know where her interests would lead her in her career, Anne is very happy to have found pedorthics and is enthusiastic about the profession; “I love the variety of your day, I love the interaction with the clients, I love the problem solving and I love the ability to work with your hands”.
Anne is currently a member of the Board of Directors on the Pedorthic Association of Canada (PAC). She looks forward to the annual PAC symposiums and most recently attended the conference in Whistler. “Another thing I love about the profession is the pedorthic community as a whole. I enjoy going to the conferences and reconnecting with friends and colleagues as well as getting to know more pedorthists. Everyone is really open to sharing ideas and wanting to further the profession as a whole. It’s so unique in that sense, it’s really wonderful.”