“The Breece Fellowship Program was created to identify and develop the best kinds of O&P Advocates - those who rely on these services to remain functional and independent. NAAOP's goal is to develop such advocates over the coming years who will become the next generation of O&P policy makers and advocacy champions.”
– Peter W. Thomas
NAAOP General Counsel
George and Dena Breece Fellowship
The NAAOP Fellowship is a paid, 10-week summer program based in Washington, D.C. The program cultivates leadership development while fellows learn about orthotic and prosthetic (O&P) policy and advocacy at the federal level, how NAAOP and other O&P organizations function on behalf of the O&P community—and in the broader context of rehabilitation and disability policy and advocacy.
The fellowship also includes exposure to:
(1) O&P clinical and business settings outside of Washington, DC, and,
(2) state-based public policy and advocacy, both at no cost to the fellows.
The selection of a Fellow for 2024 will be through a competitive process, The application deadline was Monday, February 19, 2024, at 12:00 Midnight EST. Finalists will be interviewed via videoconference and a Fellow will be selected. If the finalist selected cannot accept the fellowship for any reason, the next highest ranked fellow will be offered the position.
Application for George and Dena Breece Fellowship (2024)
2023 Breece Fellow
Kate is currently a student at Johns Hopkins University studying Biology with minors in Writing Seminars
and Theater Arts. Thanks to strong advocates in her life, she has had the opportunity to be the youngest
speaker ever at the American Physical Therapy Association’s Combined Sections Meeting, she has
spoken at a number of O&P National Conferences, and most recently spoke at the San Diego Comic-Con
about her upper limb prosthesis. Kate is active at Johns Hopkins as the President of Advocates for
Disability Awareness, President of the local chapter of the American Medical Student Association, and
active in campus theater.
A survivor of a Strep A infection as an infant, Kate’s limb loss has allowed her to experience both
prosthetic and orthotic usage. Life has been a challenge, and Kate has learned to be a fighter. The
Breece Fellowship has given Kate the knowledge and ammunition to better advocate for all people with
disabilities; skills that she will use in her future career and forever.
2022 Breece Fellow
Lucas has worked in higher education and healthcare to advance disability inclusion and accessibility outcomes. From 2020-2022 Lucas served as the Director of Disability Support Services at Columbia Basin College. While there he developed ways to reduce barriers to access by implementing universal design practices and spotlighting exciting assistive technology solutions. Lucas has a Masters in Critical Disability Studies from York University where his research focused on improving security and safeguards for people with disabilities online. As a NAAOP Breece Fellow (Summer 2022) he helped to advocate for key legislation and worked to broaden diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives within the orthotic and prosthetic field. Lucas is currently working as the Director of Community Engagement with the Amputee Coalition. In his current position, he is focused on improving access to support for new amputees and providing continued networks of engagement for the limb loss and limb different communities.
2022 Breece Fellow
Nikki is an ex firefighter-EMS-historian who speaks Russian. Due to a car accident in 2009, which eventually resulted in a failed knee replacement surgery, Nikki lost her right leg above the knee. After many failed attempts at utilizing traditional prosthetics, Nikki traveled to Australia and made the decision to utilize osseointegration to improve her mobility. After experiencing great success with osseointegration, Nikki became the North American Representative and Patient Liaison for the Osseointegration Group of Australia. Within this position she works with Osseointegration (OI) patients worldwide in maintaining contact with the Osseointegration Group of Australia team and facilitates follow up patient care for all North American based OI patients. Nikki has been advocating for patients throughout her entire career. However, due to Nikki’s own experience as an amputee patient, her advocacy has taken on a larger and more personal role in her life, and in addition to her work with osseointegration, has led her to found her own nonprofit, Central Illinois Amputees. Through this fellowship Nikki gained a greater understanding of how healthcare providers and insurance companies determine what procedures and components are covered under their policies.
2019 Breece Fellow
Alicia is a born advocate with an enthusiasm for advancing O&P care to benefit people with limb loss and limb differences. She is a graduate of Ohio University with a bachelor's degree in Technical and Applied Studies. Alicia was a part of the inaugural class of lead advocates with the Amputee Coalition. Since her time as a fellow, she has continued advocating for the O&P community and expanded her advocacy efforts with other organizations that are close to her heart. Alicia has also worked with two hospital organizations to create their peer network for amputees in Indiana.
Susannah Engdahl, PhD
2019 Breece Fellow
Susannah Engdahl, PhD is the former Manager of Health Policy and Research at the American Orthotic & Prosthetic Association (AOPA). As a lifelong prosthesis user due to congenital absence of both hands and both feet, she has a strong interest in using research to improve functional outcomes and access to care for individuals with limb loss and limb difference. Her dissertation research at the University of Michigan focused on understanding how functional success and satisfaction with an upper limb prosthesis are affected by the design of the prosthesis. During her postdoctoral fellowship at George Mason University, she worked on developing a novel ultrasound-based control modality for upper limb prostheses. Susannah’s experience as a fellow for the National Association of Advancement of Orthotics and Prosthetics (NAAOP) was instrumental in providing advocacy experience that complemented her research background, which encouraged her to pursue career opportunities that merge these interests.
2018 Breece Fellow
Nicole Ver Kuilen lost her left leg below the knee to osteosarcoma at age 10. Despite her desire to live a full and active life, she was limited by her insurance mandated prosthesis. After nearly two decades of denials, she made it her life's goal to expand access to orthotic and prosthetic (O&P) care for people like her. In 2017, Nicole put it all on the line; she completed a 1,500-mile ultra-triathlon from Seattle to San Diego - a journey she called Forrest Stump - on a prosthetic leg built only for walking.
Since then, Nicole has lobbied members of Congress in Washington, D.C. as the inaugural fellow for the National Association for the Advancement of Orthotics and Prosthetics (NAAOP), spearheaded a virtual race for disability rights during COVID called We Just Felt Like Running, and garnered close to 10,000 signatures on her petition for The Rights of Americans With Disabilities To Exercise. She now serves as the Manager of Public Engagement with the American Orthotic & Prosthetic Association (AOPA) where she is excited to share a new state-based policy initiative, So Every BODY Can Move, working to expand access to prostheses and orthoses utilized for physical activity as medically necessary healthcare for children.
Nicole is a graduate of the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business with a Bachelor of Business Administration. She lives in the PNW where she enjoys running, hiking, and being outdoors; she recently qualified for the Boston Marathon after running her first official marathon all thanks to access to appropriate prosthetic care.