Fellow fighters wanted

‘There’s a beauty in critical mass,’ says Gerry Dickerson
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Friday, August 31, 2018

NEW YORK – Gerry Dickerson has held nearly every other position on the NRRTS executive committee, but this month, he was finally named president-elect.

Here’s what Dickerson, an ATP and CRTS who works for National Seating & Mobility, had to say about the challenges and opportunities in the complex rehab industry.

HME News: The story goes you’ve had a hand in complex rehab since you were a teenager. At 13, you were constantly tinkering with an uncle’s Colson wheelchair, at one point adding pneumatic tires, which your uncle’s therapist thought was “really cool.” At 14, you got your first job at Goodale Prescription Pharmacy in Dover, N.J., where you “just started fixing things.” You’ve literally been doing this nearly your entire life.

Gerry Dickerson: I’ve literally been doing this nearly my entire life.

HME: Why have you dedicated your entire career to complex rehab?

Dickerson: From 10,000 feet, when I ask myself why I keep doing this, it’s because I like a good outcome. Regardless of all the nonsense you have to deal with, to see someone, especially a kid, move through space on their own for the first time—it makes it all worth it. And to see people be grateful. It’s the rarest of all human virtues: gratitude and appreciation. I’ve celebrated birthdays with these people. My kids were raised around these people. You have to keep looking at those brightest lights, but sadly they’re getting dimmer because we’ve become so restricted in what we can do.

HME: Even though you’re just now becoming president-elect, you’ve been involved in NRRTS…

Dickerson: For a couple hundred years now.

HME: Why become president now?

Dickerson: I’m a guerilla fighter, but I’m mellower now, so I can behave a bit more, and I’ve run out of positions to hold on the NRRTS board. And I’m 64: If I serve as president for two years and past-president for two years, then that’ll be nice way to close out 45 some-odd years. I’ll be out of gas by then.

HME: How do you hope to leave an imprint as president of NRRTS?

Dickerson: One of the things I’m always thinking about is, how do we get more registrants? There’s a beauty in critical mass. When I look at the OT and PT associations in New York, they have nearly 5,000 members. You can get a whole lot done with that kind of clout. So one of the things I hope to do as president is influence other people to become registrants.

HME: You called yourself a guerilla fighter. Do you also hope to influence other people to become more politically active?

Dickerson: That’s another thing that drives me crazy. We get a win here and a win there, but we’re not getting big wins. We’re going back 12 years on a separate benefit for complex rehab. We’re still not fully conveying what we do and the value of what we do. People think, “It’s just a wheelchair; how can it be $20,000?” People in wheelchairs are hit from so many directions—social services, transportation—that it’s hard for them to just focus on complex rehab. I don’t know how you emerge as a top priority.

HME: How do you plan to get there: increased involvement, in NRRTS and politically?

Dickerson: I haven’t thought clearly about what to do yet. The NRRTS board has worked very, very hard over the years to do exactly these two things. I do know we need to stop masking what the issues are and what the costs are. When someone says, “I can’t wait that long” for their wheelchair, I say, “I can take a check or a credit card and have it to you in three or four weeks.” The problem is not us. People will have more of a handle on that, if you speak with them frankly.