By the time the young Philadelphia-bred Ivan R. Sabel graduated with his bachelor’s degrees in Orthotics & Prosthetics from New York University in 1967 (just two years after the very first degree in the field was ever awarded), the company founded by James Edward Hanger had been sold off into various regional companies, all bearing some form of the Hanger name. The orthotics and prosthetics (O&P) profession was highly fragmented, with mom-and-pop shops passed along family lines from generation to generation.
Sabel’s father had been in a related, but still very separate field – orthopedic shoe manufacturing – so the young entrepreneur set off to pave his own way. Just one year after graduating from college, Sabel became the founder and president of Capital Orthopedics – and soon opened several more practices under the same name. A year later, in 1969, Sabel felt a personal obligation to share what he learned at NYU and in his practices, so he became a clinical instructor in orthopedics at Georgetown University Medical School.An aspiring entrepreneur with impressive clinical talent, Sabel set out to transform the O&P profession. Early on, he realized the advantages of numbers, the return on investment of increased scope and scale. So began his journey to advance his business – and in turn, he advanced the profession.He kept it all together with optimism and an infectious charisma that naturally assured all who worked with him, “we can do this.”
In 1986, Capital Orthopedics became part of Hanger Orthopedic Group. One year later, Sabel was appointed to President and Chief Operating Office. During a time when practice roll-ups were not working, Sabel forged ahead with an ambitious consolidation strategy. He kept it all together with optimism and an infectious charisma that naturally assured all who worked with him, “we can do this.”In
1995, Sabel became CEO of Hanger Orthopedic Group – and he delivered on those visions of grandeur. One by one, the regional Hanger companies once owned by James Edward Hanger were acquired – together again as one Hanger – along with many other key acquisitions.
The company grew and grew and grew – until in 1999, there were only two large O&P competitors. With Sabel at the helm, Hanger Orthopedic Group and NovaCare became one in the largest acquisition in O&P history. It wasn’t easy – but everyone knew Sabel didn’t do things because they were easy. During that difficult time, he stood strong – greatness personified.In the 13 years Sabel served as CEO of Hanger Orthopedic Group, the number of employees tripled in size from approximately 900 to more than 3,000. Additionally, during that time, Hanger made nearly 100 acquisitions. Prosthetic technology advanced exponentially and orthotic patient care was added to Hanger’s expertise. New business channels were acquired and established including distribution through SPS, network management with Linkia, and device development and commercialization with Innovative Neurotronics.
In March 2008, Thomas F. Kirk succeeded Sabel as CEO, while Sabel remained active as Chairman of the Board. Additionally, inspired by his volunteer work with amputees in Vietnam years earlier, Sabel worked with Hanger leadership to found the Hanger Ivan R. Sabel Foundation in 2009, whose mission is to enhance the productivity and quality of life for those, domestically and abroad, who face physical challenges due to disease, war or natural disasters by supporting charitable organizations, programs, and volunteerism that improve human mobility.On January 12, 2010, in response to the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that devastated Haiti, killing hundreds of thousands and leaving over 2,000 people with missing limbs, the Hanger Ivan R. Sabel Foundation established a sustainable prosthetics clinic that has delivered prosthetic care to 1,000+ Haitian amputees since its inception.
Following in the footsteps of James Edward Hanger, Ivan R. Sabel revolutionized Hanger Orthopedic Group and the profession through his entrepreneurial spirit, generosity, and innovative clinical expertise.