By Derrick Gingery
July 2009

Name: Sam Santa-Rita

Age: 41

Company: SRT Prosthetics & Orthotics

Title: Owner

Education: Bachelor’s degree from the University of Toledo

How did you get into the prosthetics business?

A friend of our family … was a Vietnam veteran, who was not injured in the war, but after his time that he served they offered him educational opportunities. He happened to pick prosthetics and orthotics … The Air Force trained him. He became a prosthetist and opened a facility in Toledo, Ohio. It was only about two miles from my house. My parents knew him, he was their age, and I was a 12-year-old kid that was looking for summer work and odd jobs after school. (He) hired me to do all the things the adults didn’t want to do …

When I ran out of work outside, they moved me inside. And next thing you know, I’m doing what we would call basic technical work … When I finished by bachelor’s (degree) I was 22 and not working for (him) at the time. He hired me back … My father’s a doctor and I really enjoyed the patient care aspect of it. But I wanted to work with my hands quite a bit and thought (prosthetics) was a good blend … There’s a lot of craftsmanship that goes into it.

Why did you decide to open your own business?

I had managed for two of the largest companies in this profession and enjoyed that, but the pressures of working for a large company just wasn’t really fitting what my personal goals were. When you work for a company that’s publicly traded, the profits do come first and we have an obligation to the shareholders to provide them with profits. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just the nature of that type of business. And patient care sometimes was secondary …

I turned it around and said if we take care of our patients we won’t have to worry about the profitability of this business … Being able to control the philosophy of the company has been very important to me. You have to start with patient care and end with patient care. Everything else will fall into place if you’re managing wisely.

What is the greatest challenge you face each day?

It appears that we have a (younger) generation or two of people that have not been involved in the workplace and don’t understand what customer service looks like. Sometimes their expectations are unrealistic. They’ve never provided customer service, much less good customer service. So they don’t understand or appreciate the fact that they’re being treated as individuals and not as just a number … People think that you’re supposed to be at their beck and call at any hour. That’s been a challenge.

Name one thing people don’t know about your job.

This is a fun place to work. Our patients are very fun, happy people with a very positive outlook on life. Most of them have cheated death and they know it. The majority of our patients are very driven to prove to themselves and family members and other people that they’re whole again and they’re not handicapped … This is not a depressing place to work. We have a very good time here. We really do.