The National Association for the Advancement of Orthotics and Prosthetics (NAAOP) has selected Nicole Ver Kuilen as the recipient of the inaugural NAAOP Fellowship. Ver Kuilen lost her leg to bone cancer when she was 10. She recently completed a 1,500-mile triathlon down the Pacific coast to raise awareness about challenges people with amputations have accessing appropriate prostheses. She filmed a documentary about her journey and has taken her message to Washington to educate policymakers about these issues. Ver Kuilen graduated with high distinction from the University of Michigan Ross School of Business in 2013. She has worked at the Clean Energy Coalition, a nonprofit consulting firm in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and served as assistant director for the University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability.
“Nicole distinguished herself among several superlative candidates for this inaugural NAAOP fellowship,” said NAAOP’s General Counsel Peter Thomas, JD. “We only wish we could have accepted all the candidates and hope an expanded fellowship program in the future will make room for these and other highly qualified individuals.”
The 2018 Fellowship is a 10-week program based in Washington DC. Ver Kuilen will learn about O&P policy, advocacy, and how NAAOP and other organizations function on behalf of O&P and within the broader rehabilitation/disability policy and advocacy community at the federal and state levels. She will also receive a $500 weekly stipend and an office at NAAOP. “In the 16 years I’ve been an amputee, I’ve realized our amputee community is systematically being denied the appropriate technology and care we need to live our best lives; this isn’t right. I believe, through our collective efforts, we can create the largest movement in America for mobility rights,” Ver Kuilen said.
“[Nicole] embodies what the next generation of O&P advocates will be. After her fellowship experience, we believe Nicole will be an even greater O&P advocate, and we will be a better organization because she was our inaugural NAAOP Fellow,” said George Breece, NAAOP executive director.