5 Minutes with Bob Vogel

Bob Vogel

Bob Vogel, with service dog Killy, is the long-time senior correspondent for New Mobility magazine.

Of my current projects, I’m most excited by… first, an article on the annual No Barriers adaptive sports festival; I participated in falconry, stunt kite flying, and meditation. Second, a column on options to manage hip fractures for people with spinal cord injuries. I’m most proud of two series of columns, “Para/Medic” and “Bladder Matters” for New Mobility [NewMobility.com]. They are information columns on managing chronic spinal cord injury issues, from fractures to bowel and bladder. In these times of “instant, 21-day rehab” [following spinal cord injury], it’s vital information. And many physicians outside of major rehab centers don’t know this stuff.

Of the challenges facing CRT, I’m most concerned about… educating people who control funding about the high costs of short-term savings. I would love a study that researches two columns. Column A is where savings have been theoretically made from funding cuts — “With competitive bidding, we saved x dollars on a cushion and y dollars on a chair.” We need a Column B that looks at the infinitely higher cost when clients can’t access proper equipment. That cost is everything from re-hospitalizations for pressure sores, to lack of productivity and the inability to get a job and pay taxes.

The technology segment I’m most intrigued by is… in power, the Virtual Seating Coach [by Permobil], as well as two companies that have predictive maintenance apps, is going to be a huge game changer. On the manual side — a disclaimer that I’m an ambassador for Motion Composites, but they utilize design and understanding of materials to produce carbon fiber chairs that are vibration resistant, ultralight and going to last forever.

What CRT needs most is… to involve consumers in the fight for better reimbursement. A lot of this, on my part, is continuing to educate the consumer on the real costs, from development to delivery, of DME. Beyond that, it’s to educate them on how to contact Congresspeople and Senators. Instead of writing angry comments, if consumers would write their Representatives —“I’m a voter and …” — stuff would change.

What I wish I could change… I would love to adopt the type of reimbursement system they have in Europe. I’ve visited Denmark and Sweden, and you have a handful of prescriptions and go into a DME supplier that resembles an Abilities Expo, with therapists who say, “Which of these products is going to best suit you?” They don’t look at price tags, they look at client outcomes.

My favorite thing about the industry is… the people. They’ve become friends and mentors. How cool is it to find a job where you’re paid to help improve people’s lives? In my 33 years as a T10 paraplegic, I get to experience directly how proper DME enables me to live a full life. As time takes its toll on my body, equipment keeps getting better, enabling me to stay healthy and mobile.

CRT industry members I really admire are… two friends and mentors I continue to learn from: Marty Ball has been on the leading edge of DME forever. And Rory Cooper is my go-to person when I have a question on the biomechanical side. He can look at something from a results-oriented arena and say, Yes, this is really something, or This is lipstick on a cow.

In my personal life, I admire… Yvon Chouinard. He grew a passion for mountaineering into Patagonia, an outdoor clothing and gear company that is eco-friendly. His employees work like crazy for him because they like what they’re doing, and he treats them well. Also, the late Barry Corbet, original editor of New Mobility.

My favorite recent event was… ISS, Vancouver. I love Canada, and Vancouver was everything I’d heard about it and then some. What a fun city.

My favorite tradeshow city is… Vancouver, and in a different way, Nashville. They’ve got their unique tastes and flavors. I love both of them.

The last great meal I had was… There’s a place up the hill from me in Auburn, Calif. — Joe Caribé. And it was chicken curry.

I would tell my younger self… Around age 13, I had this thought of being in my elder years and thinking: Did I try the things I wanted to, even if they seemed scary or risky, or did I play it comfortable and safe and miss out? Because of that, I’ve been a professional skier and a Hollywood stuntman. Post injury, I’ve competed internationally in hang-gliding aerobatics, scuba dived across the world, won an Emmy award, am raising an amazing daughter, been a professional speaker and have a profession where I am helping people.

People who know me would say I… care, and I make them laugh.

Those people would be surprised to learn that I… am very shy. I love people, and I love meeting people. But I’m always going out of my comfort zone.

This article originally appeared in the July 2018 issue of Mobility Management.

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