Goodnight Alumni Spotlight: Camille Cruz

Goodnight Scholar Alum Camille Cruz ’15, sought out a career field that combined her love of science and art. One Google search and a Master’s Degree in Orthotics and Prosthetics later, Camille is living her dream of being a Pediatric Prosthetist Orthotist in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Goodnight Scholars Program: Where has life taken you since graduating from NC State?

Camille Cruz ’15: I am now in Fort Wayne, Indiana for my job. I knew leaving NC State that I wanted to be a certified Prosthetist Orthotist. For my job, I work with patients who need some sort of external bracing (orthoses) like leg braces or patients who are amputees and need an external prosthesis. To become a certified Prosthetist Orthotist I had to go to grad school. I went to Houston, and attended Baylor College of Medicine, in the heart of the Medical Center, which had a program in Orthotics and Prosthetics. I got my Master’s which was a two and a half year program and also involved an 18 month residency. So it’s basically six, three-month month clinical rotations. I was in Houston for three of them, then Oklahoma City, Gainesville, and Asheville. Then, I found my job here!

What do you find rewarding about your work as a Prosthetist Orthotist?

I see a wide range of demographics, but I specialize in pediatrics. The cool thing about working in pediatrics is you watch these kids grow and progress. I’ve had kids who are two years old, they are still not standing independently, and they might have to use a walker. And then I give them leg braces to help stabilize their legs so they don’t have to spend so much time and energy because their legs are not working efficiently. Then, I see them six or eight months later when they can show off that they are standing on their own for 10 seconds. So that is a super cool transition.

What was something in undergrad that inspired you to pursue a Master’s Degree?

I knew already in high school that I wanted to do something around Prosthetics. My whole life, I knew I needed to be some form of an artist, but I loved both art and science. In high school, I took Biology and then I took Physics, so I thought about engineering. But, I didn’t want to leave my art behind. On a Google search, I researched how to combine art with my other passions, and I found Prosthetics. With Prosthetics, there were a lot of hands-on art and science opportunities like modifying positive molds.

How has the Coronavirus impacted your work?

I still see patients on a regular basis, but we have to take our precautions in everybody wearing masks. A lot of times we service schools, but because of restrictions, we cannot physically go to the schools to see patients. There are some patients we would have normally already seen two or four times in one year but have not seen once since COVID started. So we definitely worry about the patients who are not getting the care that they need.

How did your education at NC State and experiences within the Goodnight Scholars Program help prepare you for what you are doing today?

My engineering background made me a better problem solver to troubleshoot issues a patient may be having and to find new orthotic or prosthetic designs to meet patient goals. During my time at NC State I was also involved in a couple of undergraduate research labs and became familiar with reading scientific papers, which helped me understand clinical research in our profession. For the Goodnight Scholars Program, having the ability to serve and take on different leadership roles gave me experience working in a team environment and also allowed me to connect with people doing various STEM focused work. Additionally, the “pay it forward” mantra in the Goodnight Scholars Program was something that really stuck with me. And there are small things that I do in my everyday life to uphold that mantra.

How do you spend your free time?

I am very much a collector of hobbies. I really like music and played the clarinet for 10 years, and I have a guitar I like to play. I also like to dance, but I never danced growing up. I always wanted to be in a hip hop crew, so I actually joined one when I moved to Fort Wayne.

Having the opportunity to meet so many people from across the world, with different backgrounds and different interests was a highlight.

What is a piece of advice you have for NC State students and Goodnight Scholars?

One of the best things I got out of college was the social aspect. Having the opportunity to meet so many people from across the world, with different backgrounds and different interests was a highlight. What I found was in college I had a built-in community with the Goodnight Scholars Program. Then once you go out into the real world, it is much more difficult to find those people. You have to put in the effort to network and find those communities. So outside of COVID, try and maximize the connections that you have. Even if you have to do virtual meetings, these connections are valuable and important.