Beth Ruehl graduated from UL Lafayette with honors in 2018, earning her Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology with a concentration in exercise science.
Studying exercise science put Beth on track to become a Certified Prosthetist Orthotist — following in the steps of those who impacted her life as an amputee. She is scheduled to receive her Masters of Prosthetics and Orthotics from Northwestern University’s Feinburg School of Medicine in 2020.
Finding Purpose from Loss
“I fully believe that the entire purpose of my life was set into motion at the age of three when a lawnmower accident claimed my leg,” Beth shared. “I battled alienation, I struggled with others doubting my abilities, and I was caught up in proving to others that my limb difference did not define me.”
Beth is currently a resident at Alabama Artificial Limb and Orthopedic Services in Mobile, AL. Once the 18-month residency is completed, she will be eligible to sit for her Boards and become a Certified Prosthetist Orthotist (CPO).
“I will be a practitioner for individuals with limb loss, difference, and deficiency,” Beth explained. “This includes assessing, taking impressions of their limbs or trunk, fabricating a prosthesis or orthosis, and fitting them to the patient before teaching them how to use it to assist them in their day to day life.”
After her accident in 1999, Beth was determined not to slow down.
“With the help of prosthetists willing to answer every question and concern, and a tough ‘pick-yourself-back-up’ parenting style, my parents were able to raise an incredibly resilient, confident woman,” Beth said. “That woman is me.”
That resiliency was evident in junior high when Beth signed up for the volleyball team. Skeptical of Beth’s abilities, the coach assigned her as the water girl.
“I ended up playing five seasons on a junior Olympic volleyball team for non-amputees,” Beth said. In high school and college, Beth also spent time as a counselor at an amputee youth camp where she met children who left a lasting impression on her heart.
Finding Purpose on Campus
Although Beth chose to attend UL Lafayette because of the atmosphere and vibrant culture throughout the University and city, it was the faculty that had the most significant impact on her.
“The School of Kinesiology is teeming with hilarious, helpful, and supportive individuals who are there to prepare you for your future,” she said. “I felt like I was always supported.”
Beth’s unique experience — and the small moments along the way — led her to understand her purpose in life.
“It was sharing countless chocolate Frostys with my daddy after skipping school for another leg appointment.
“It was the family I made at my practitioner’s office who always made me feel normal — and even made me a peg leg for a Halloween costume.
“It was standing in the middle of a grinding room as a prosthetics technician assistant, with dried plaster all over my shoes, realizing that I didn’t want to leave work early for my beach vacation.
"It was seeing a 50-year-old fresh hip-disartic take off walking on a test socket that I had fabricated for the practitioner, and the light in a 5-year-old’s eyes when I handed her a Rainbowfish socket.”
“Countless little memories have shown me that maybe my limb difference does define me in a way,” Beth said. “It has helped define me as an aspiring professional, a lover of hard work, and a seeker of ways to improve quality of life. Becoming a certified Prosthetist/Orthotist is the next step in fulfilling my purpose.”