As a teenager, Chris Cumsille, BOCPD, spent his winters carving turns as he raced down the snowy New England slopes, always trying to better his times. His passion for skiing, in a roundabout way, introduced him to the O&P profession. As a 16-year-old ski racer, Cumsille was temporarily sidelined due to a knee injury that required the services of an orthotist to fit him with a custom knee brace and foot orthotics. After spending about an hour with his orthotist discussing his treatment and the O&P profession, Cumsille says he knew that he was going to become an O&P practitioner.
1. How has your career progressed?
I began as an orthotic technician at a local ski shop in 1987. From there, I went to school, became a practitioner, and started seeing patients. I have also worked in different capacities related to O&P. I worked for a force-plate company as its U.S. distributor. I was the director of education for Christy Sports ski shops in Colorado, where I would train employees to fit orthotics, ensure the skier’s body was properly aligned while wearing ski boots, and fit and adjust ski boots. I then started my own practice in the late 1990s; I had four locations with eight employees doing foot orthotics and gauntlets. From 2000–2002, I also worked as the foot orthotic consultant at the Olympic Training Center, Colorado Springs, Colorado. Now I am a practitioner at Creative Technology Prosthetics & Orthotics (CTPO), Denver, Colorado.
2. Who or what has motivated you or inspired you in your professional pursuits?
My patients inspire me. I don’t know how many times I have been to a hospital or nursing home and have seen an AFO or gauntlet sitting around because the patient refused to wear it due to improper fit or because something wasn’t appropriate with it. That inspires me to create and produce a device that will benefit the patient and that he or she will actually use and like.
3. What emerging trends or exciting advances do you see in your field?
The progression from plastics, polypropylene-type materials, and co-polymers to carbon fiber allows for more responsive and dynamic bracing. I think minimal bracing is what I see for the future.
4. What advice would you give to someone just entering the O&P profession or starting his or her own business?
Be patient-care centered 100 percent of the time. Seek out the best residency experience possible and work with the best practitioners so you get an idea of what other practitioners are doing. The best resources we have in this industry are ourselves, all of us—practitioners, physicians, physical therapists, and other healthcare providers. Collaborate on what works best for patients, and share and promote…your experiences and empirical evidence. This will advance you individually, and it will also advance the profession.
5. Please describe your approach to patient care.
Good patient care comes from experience and the willingness to learn and listen. Early in my career, I caught myself not listening to other practitioners and not getting much input from the patient. How many times have we made a standard product for someone with a certain type of pathology because that is the easiest path? We must challenge ourselves to improve.