Dwight Putnam, CP/L

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Dwight Putnam

After transitioning from a ten-year career as a commercial sculptor/fabricator during which time he created 3D characters and environments-artificial rocks and trees, giant cell phones, dinosaurs, and life-size whales, for example-Dwight Putnam, CP/L, used similar skills at a cosmetic prosthetics company, where he found his calling in O&P. His first patient was an elderly woman for whom he fabricated a prosthetic silicone nose after she lost hers to cancer. "Seeing firsthand how my skillset contributed to the restoration of quality of life for this woman was indeed an eye opener," he said. "I never looked back." Putnam eventually attended the O&P certificate program at California State University, Dominguez Hills, and then secured a residency at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children (TSRHC), Dallas, where he is now a staff prosthetist.

1. Who has motivated or inspired you in your life and/or professional pursuits?

My parents, retired healthcare professionals, instilled in me a great work ethic and a natural tendency toward altruism. Along the way there have been a few supervisors who recognized my potential and took me under their wings. Prosthetically speaking, Don Cummings, CP/L, FAAOP, has been my mentor for the last nine years. His calm demeanor, his passion for the field, and his wealth of knowledge are an inspiration to me on a daily basis.

2. What do you see in the future for O&P?

Practitioners will have to be trained in 3D imaging and 3D printing, as well as in traditional prosthetics. I see a need to embrace emerging technologies and to find ways to integrate them into the traditional practice. Until recently, TSRHC hadn't billed for any of its services, prosthetics or otherwise. As we slowly shift toward reimbursements and L-Codes, we will need to carry on the legacy of quality care and innovative prosthetic solutions geared toward children and the busy, high-impact lives they lead.

3. Please describe what your work entails.

I work with several clinics to help identify children who would benefit from prosthetic intervention. For a patient who requires a traditional prosthesis, I do the initial exam, cast the patient, modify the plaster model, test the socket fit, select components, align the device, and deliver the prosthesis. For a custom silicone device, I cast the patient, sculpt the wax model, mold the piece, inject the mold, and do any final cosmetic touch-ups. I also do a fair amount of public speaking on behalf of TSRHC and have developed specialty practices in creative upper-limb and silicone solutions.

4. Please describe your approach to patient care.

My approach to patient care is simple: Whatever the child needs, the child gets-whether it is a prosthesis, a visit with a physical or occupational therapist, or some other aspect of his or her care. One of my goals is to keep my patients as active as they want to be. I am fortunate to work in an environment that treats the whole child and has all of the necessary departments to do so at one location.

5. What advice would you give to someone just entering the O&P profession?

Prosthetics is a very humbling profession. Just when you think you know enough, you realize that you don't know near enough. You should always be ready to learn new techniques and technologies and to try new components.