William Schumann, CPO, FAAOP, 75, whose O&P career started 50 years ago, recently retired from practice. He continued to serve his patients through the COVID-19 pandemic, against the opinion of his peers and family who suggested that his age would allow him to step back. His associates say he is and has always been a mentor and inspiration to others in the field, and he credits “every colleague he had a clinical conversation with” as influencing his career. The O&P EDGE and the O&P profession wish him a happy retirement. Read more about his work and contribution to the profession.
What did Mr. Schumann’s career path look like?
He was introduced to O&P in 1966 while attending the Chicago City College in a pre-pharmacy program. The school agreed to collaborate with Northwestern University, at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, to provide the first year of a two year associate of art (AA) degree program in prosthetics, the first such program. The goal was to promote prosthetics from individual certificate courses, such as an above-knee prosthetics course, a below-knee prosthetics course, etc., into a recognized degree curriculum encompassing all levels of amputation. Schumann happened to pass by the prosthetics lab that was being outfitted at City College and thought, “Wow.” He dropped pharmacy and enrolled in prosthetics.
He became a member of the second graduating class of Northwestern’s AA degree in prosthetics. He was considered an outlier in the field because he had no previous experience with amputees or rehabilitation and had “questionable” hand skills.
Schumann graduated in 1968 and served a two-year residency with Dreher-Jouett, Chicago. He initially worked as a technician but was soon given patient and clinic responsibilities and stayed until 1972. He passed his ABC certification exam in 1970.
In 1972, one of his colleagues was invited to start an O&P practice at Boston Children’s Hospital and invited Shumann to help get the practice going. It was the opportunity of a career, Shumann says. The colleague was M.E. “Bill” Miller, CO, founder of the Boston brace, who started NOPCO. The practice first focused on patients with cerebral palsy, scoliosis, and spina bifida. The Boston Brace for Scoliosis came out of that relationship as did the Boston Overlap for spondylolysis and spondylolisthesis. Solid AFOs were also used extensively for cerebral palsy but also for some people with paraplegia to enhance knee stability. He also created the first adjustable volume transfemoral socket interface used as an intermediate interface. Schumann extended his certification to CPO in 1975.
Schumann left Children’s in 1981 to begin his own practice in Salem, Massachusetts, and later merged it with a colleague in 1985 into a typical O&P practice, where he offered an ischial containment course to his local colleagues.
He and his partner later sold the practice, and Shumann tried to retire. He practiced woodworking and furniture building and began to restore a 1967 Austin-Healey, but missed the daily excitement of patient care. In about 2005 he went back to work with a colleague who had an established practice similar to Boston Children’s at Hasbro Children’s Hospital, Providence, Rhode Island. Cranial remolding had gained momentum and they had a StarScanner. That’s all Schumann needed to know, and he immersed himself in remolding for his last 16 years in practice.
He credits his teachers at Northwestern, Loren Jouett, CPO, M.E. “Bill” Miller, CO, and Bill Neumann, CPO, along with his colleagues in O&P with having a positive influence on his career.
What were his biggest career accomplishments?
Several, he supposes.
Introduction to endoskeletal prosthetics, the initial course in myoelectrics, and Immediate Post-surgical Fittings, and was able to use it during the 1970s and then converting it to Early Adjustable Prosthetic Fittings through the 1980s.
Introducing derotation to the reduction of scoliotic curves, teaching the Boston Brace concept, being a Charter member of the Academy and then following Neumann’s encouragement to involve himself in a leadership role where he participated in the development of Academy Societies and ultimately became president. Shumann also was an NCOPE mentor.
Finally, to be honored by his colleagues with the presentation of the Titus-Ferguson Award in 2007.
What changes has he seen in O&P?
Amputation surgery becoming reconstructive rather than destructive; everyone’s awareness of biomechanical anatomy, targeted muscle reinnervation and myoelectrics, CAD/CAM, 3D printing, microprocessors, and more.