In his own words: Scott Forrester, prosthetics maker
Northern Nevada Business Weekly: Tell us about Forrester Custom Prosthetics and what you do.
Scott Forrester: Forrester Custom Prosthetics makes custom-fit prosthetics for area amputees. We have been doing it since 2011. I take a patient from intake who needs a new or first leg, and I work with their doctors and the insurance companies and custom-fabricate that limb. I do all the fitting, building and fabrication and follow-up work such as rehab and coordination with physical therapy. We mostly do lower limbs.
NNBW: How did you get into this profession?
Forrester: I was heading toward physical therapy out of UNR, and met a prosthetist through my father who let me do an internship. After the first two days of the internship I knew this is what I wanted to do. I get to work with my hands and with patients — it is the best of both worlds. Half the day I am out seeing people and the other half I am back at the shop making stuff.
NNBW: As a prosthetist, what are the main things you need to know to make the most successful prosthetic limb for your clients?
Forrester: Communication with the patient; a lot of that gets lost these days. For a lot of patients, it is not always going to fit the first time, so you have to redo it quite a bit; there’s a lot of trial and error. Attention to detail also is a big thing, as well as making a finished product that looks nice.
NNBW: Is it easier or harder to make a prosthetic depending on how much of a limb a client still has?
Forrester: Definitely. Someone with a below-the-knee amputation has an easier time adjusting because they have their knee joint. Above the knee, it is harder for the patient to assimilate back to their lifestyle. They have to focus on using a mechanical knee joint and develop a way to take their weight through a mechanical limb that they’ve never used before. But every patient is completely different, and you have to approach every new project from the ground up.
NNBW: In your career as a prosthetist, is there one person who you helped regain their mobility that really stands out as a rewarding experience.
Forrester: There have been a couple of clients who had been fit with prosthetics before but just couldn’t use them. I remember a guy who I had fit, and it was his first day on the new leg. He couldn’t believe he could walk without pain, and he actually was tearing up in my office, hugging me and thanking me. You go home at the end of the day with a smile on your face.
NNBW: What’s new in the field of prosthetics, and how has it changed the way prosthetists do business?
Forrester: From a prosthetics standpoint, a lot of stuff is being controlled by computers now. There are feet, ankles, knee and hip joints that are computer controlled that adjust to how a person walks and what speed they are walking. They can anticipate what a person will do next, and that is pretty amazing. Socket technologies and the materials we use are changing — we are using carbon fiber and titanium, very high tech aerospace-grade materials to make prosthetics lighter and stronger. On the business side, the insurance game is changing quite a bit. It’s a lot harder for us to bill insurance without proper documentation. They are huge on us having all our ducks in a row before we can bill something.
NNBW: Since founding Forrester Custom Prosthetics in 2011, what are the main challenges you have overcome as a small business owner?
Forrester: Dealing with bureaucracy has been my biggest challenges — I thought I would quit my job and just start a new business, pay my license fee and I’m off. It took me almost six months of dealing with Medicare and Medicaid contracting and the State Pharmacy Board, which I am licensed through. Also learning how to run a business itself. I can make a leg, and I’m great with patients, but the business side of it has been the most challenging part of it for me.
NNBW: Tell us about your dream job. Why aren’t you working it?
Forrester: I would like to be the prosthetist for the U.S. Ski Team or for the U.S. Paralympic Team.
NNBW: Have any advice for someone who wants to enter your profession?
Forrester: It is a great field to get into. It is growing rapidly, which is a shame because people are still losing their limbs. My advice would be to get your hands dirty in the field; get out there and start doing it. You are going to learn a lot more by doing it than by reading textbooks.
NNBW: What was your first job?
Forrester: I worked manufacturing miniature electrical components for cars in high school. I soldered two pieces of wire together for six hours every day after high school.
NNBW: What are your favorite hobbies or pastimes? How do you spend your time away from work?
Forrester: I like to ski in the winter, and I ride my mountain bike a lot in the summer.
NNBW: If you could live your life over again, what one thing would you change?
Forrester: I would travel right after I got out of school. That was always a dream of mine, and I jumped right into a career, which was a good thing, but man I would like to travel. There’s still time to do it, but I would have like to do it when I was fresh out of school.
NNBW: What did you dream of becoming when you were a kid?
Forrester: I did an internship when I was in sixth grade, and I wanted to be an orthopedic surgeon. My first year in college I realized I didn’t want to be in college for 10 years.
NNBW: If you could hang on to just one memory for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Forrester: Spending time with my family, some of the memories I have with them.
NNBW: If you had enough money to retire right now, would you? Why or why not?
Forrester: I would continue doing this. If money wasn’t a concern it would make life easier, that’s for sure, but I couldn’t stop doing this. I would either volunteer or get into education.
NNBW: What’s the last concert or sporting event you attended?
Forrester: I went to the Shakespeare Festival at Lake Tahoe.
NNBW: Where’s your perfect vacation spot?
Forrester: Either a ski vacation or mountain bike vacation to Whistler; I would take either one.
NNBW: Why did you choose a career in northern Nevada? What do you like most about working/living here?
Forrester: I grew up here and am a native. I love the outdoors, riding my bike and skiing. I love the people here.
Know someone whose perspective you would like to share with NNBW readers? Email reporter Rob Sabo at email@example.com or call him at 775-850-2146.
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