A reason to celebrate

Thursday, July 7, 2011

CARSON, Calif. - When the President's Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition announced its Community Leadership Award winners for 2011, Sue Chen landed on a list that included Nike. Chen, the CEO of Nova Medical Products, spoke with HME News in June about what it means for the HME industry to be associated with fitness in such a high-profile way.

HME News: You were one of 38 people or organizations to get this award and you had some pretty good company.

Sue Chen: I'm really proud for Nova that I would get this honor, but I'm also proud for our industry, which doesn't have the most feel-good image. Just because you have a challenge in your life physically, doesn't mean you're not a physical, capable, awesome human being. I feel the industry should be celebrated, because we do so much to improve people's lives.

HME: You mentioned the industry's image. There's this perception that when a person needs home medical equipment, it's a sad, depressing situation.

Chen: I was giving a presentation on mobility at an assisted living center a few years ago and everybody came down for the presentation using the same gray walker. We still call home medical equipment bent metal--and it is. It's gray pieces of bent metal.

HME: What's the impact of that?

Chen: You attach that to a whole group of people and all of a sudden their individuality, their amazing accomplishments, their unique personalities become overshadowed by this awful gray piece of metal that people have a stigma attached to. That's terrible.

HME: What should be done?

Chen: What we're trying to do is very simple, yet people think it's so innovative. Your mobility equipment, which is part of you, should be as unique as you are. It's no different than your car being as unique as you are, or your clothes being as unique as you are. We're trying to shift the way America embraces mobility.

HME: So just because Medicare thinks a consumer should get a piece of bent metal doesn't mean that's the only option.

Chen: We're trying to tell people, "Look, your mobility is the most important part of your life." We know, when it comes to a walker, people are like, "Do I really want to pay more for front wheels if Medicare isn't going to pay for them?" Or "Do I really want to pay more for something a little better?" They think, "I'm not worth it; I don't deserve to have the most kick-ass walker." Medicare says they don't, but they do.

HME: Why have you added mobility advocate to your resume?

Chen: Because our mission goes beyond running a successful company and supporting dealers and supporting our industry. Our mission has gone to America. It's a big statement, but we want to give people their dignity back when they're facing mobility challenges, and we want to do it across America.