Don Cummings, BS

Don Cummings, Alumnus of the Prosthetics-Orthotics Program
“Personally, one of the ways I feel that I am an expert in the field is in being a consumer and user of prostheses, then also in being a fitter, a provider of prosthetic devices.”

BS, Orthotics and Prosthetics
UT Southwestern Medical Center ’84

Director of Prosthetics, Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children
Adjunct Clinical Faculty, UT Southwestern Medical Center

A Chance to Learn

“When I was a freshman in college, I caught bacterial meningitis and as a result had to have both legs amputated. When I went through that experience, I gradually became more interested as I was getting rehabilitated and learning how to wear prostheses. I had been studying Special Education at the University of Texas at Dallas, so I finished that degree, but meanwhile I had been talking with the practitioner who had made my first pair of prostheses. When I went in for adjustments on my legs, I’d always say, ‘Hey, any time you have an opening here, I’d like to learn about the field.’ I think finally I just wore him out and he said, ‘Okay, we’ll give the guy a chance.’”

Coming Full Circle

“I came to Scottish Rite as a student, when we did our clinical rotations. I really enjoyed working with kids because I had the Special Ed background, and I thought that’d be a wonderful place to work. It was a couple of years later when I was working in private practice that I heard they had an opening here that was a perfect match. It was prosthetics and orthotics, but also working with kids, so everything came full circle.”

Back to Having Fun

“What I enjoy at Scottish Rite is, first of all, the kids—that’s always a joy and an inspiration. These are kids who were born with an absent limb or needed to have surgery in order to enable them to wear a prosthesis. I love working with this group. They’re inspiring; they’re generally enthusiastic. They just want to get fitted with their prosthesis and go back to what they were doing, whether it was playing sports or whatever it might be. They want to get back to having fun and staying busy.”

Problem Solving

“Many times it is a sport or some activity that they want to pursue, but maybe there’s not a prosthesis or a component that’s out there intended for that particular activity. So we often are coming up with ideas, working with research, with the biomedical engineers trying to come up with ways we can solve a problem or enable a child to reach their goal. There’s a lot of teamwork, and we collaborate with, well, everybody … physical therapists, occupational therapists, psychologists, orthopedists, pediatricians, I could go on.”

First Class

 “At the time, there was no prosthetics/orthotics program in the Dallas area, so I called UT Southwestern and started asking about physical therapy and other related programs. But someone knew they were starting a program in prosthetics and orthotics. There were four of us in that very first class [1984]. As students, we rotated through Scottish Rite as one of the clinical sites, through Parkland Hospital, and a couple of private practices that worked with us. Every day you were in class, then there was a clinical rotation.”

The Last Word

“What has been most fulfilling to me in the field has been the opportunity to meet so many kids, so many unique individuals, who despite having disabilities, all have unique interests and talents and abilities. Working with the families has been inspirational and really the most fun I’ve had. I can’t imagine doing anything else. I’ve loved that aspect of it and that’s what still keeps me going, 24 years later.”