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NAAOP’s Breece Fellowship: Jump-Starting a Career in Disability Advocacy and Politics

Feb 7, 2024 |

By Lucas DeLuca, Director of Support Services/2022 Breece Fellow

I thought I had it all, having just finished my Masters in Disability Studies, and working in higher education supporting students with disabilities, I was making a difference. It might not have been the difference I dreamed of at 13, when speaking with amputees and their families at Shriners Childrens Hospital, but it was a job in the disability field and that meant something…right?  

As the weeks went by, I found myself wanting more, so I began looking for opportunities to learn more about the limb loss and limb difference community, a space where I could better understand how local, state, and federal policies impacted the lives of the disability community. I needed an opportunity to break into the disability/O&P field, but I didn’t know where to start or what those jobs looked like. It felt like I was trying to climb a giant wall, but then I found the George and Dena Breece Fellowship. The best way I can describe it is as if in being a part of the program I didn’t just climb that wall from before; the National Association for the Advancement of Orthotics & Prosthetics (NAAOP) team basically shot me out of a cannon with everything I needed to soar in the O&P Space.  

So, what does this opportunity look like? Well, Fellows get to see a masterclass daily on how laws, politics, and disability advocacy mesh together by working in the heart of Washington, DC. As a Fellow, you are meeting and collaborating with an incredible team of movers and shakers in the disability space. Most importantly, all Fellows gain a robust understanding of the diverse O&P field and the value of patient-centered care. 

Highlights of my Fellowship experience included shadowing NAAOP’s General Counsel, Peter Thomas, while he worked with Congressional and Senate offices to advance legislation, collaborating with the Powers Law team to develop a legal template for the So Kids Can Move Initiative, watching my co-fellow Nikki Grace Strader protest with veterans on the Hill and succeed in passing the PACT Act, and learning about the Americans with Disabilities Act from the late, great Bobby Silverstein, one of its architects. 

Every fellow has an area of focus during their time in DC. My background in diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) lent itself to a review of efforts in the O&P field to better support under-resourced communities and evaluate how the industry could make advancements to increase access to care nationally. Whatever your area of focus, NAAOP throws its weight behind you with advice, networking opportunities, and support, ensuring that you are never working in a bubble. For professionals of any age and background, the program is transformational, and the bonds you build last for years to come. 

I cannot recommend the Breece Fellowship enough and will never be able to express just how grateful I am for the opportunity I was given. It altered the course of my professional career and allowed me to be the change I wanted to see as a young amputee. If you have an interest, even a passing one, you owe it to yourself to apply and see where this amazing opportunity can take you. 

Applications for the 2024 summer NAAOP Fellowship are now being accepted through Monday, February 19, until 12:00 midnight ET. Learn more and apply today!