The end of September marked the passing of Merton Root, DPM, who died from complications from pneumonia. Dr. Root was a biomechanical pioneer and one of the most influential educators in the podiatric profession. Over 40 years ago, he posed theories that laid the groundwork for the modern orthotic industry which have helped to advance sports medicine and general orthotics.
While Dr. Root will be missed in the podiatric community, his contributions remain timeless, as evidenced by the warm remembrances from his colleagues.
“His contributions to the podiatric field have been enormous and extraordinary,” offers Douglas Richie, Jr., DPM, who co-authored Dr. Root’s last original paper on range of motion of the first ray. “Dr. Root’s greatest contribution has been his emphasis of clinical observations to justify diagnosis and treatment decisions. He taught that biomechanical examination and gait analysis required a level of skill that could only be attained after years of experience and diligence. He was committed to following sound scientific methodology with a painstaking commitment to detail and accuracy.”
Howard Dananberg, DPM, concurs, noting that he has been inspired by Dr. Root’s work ethic almost as much as his volume of biomechanical literature.
“Dr. Root brought objectivity to podiatric biomechanics and brought podiatry into the 20th century,” notes Dr. Dananberg. “I have learned from Dr. Root the importance of persistence. His dedication to excellence and the drive to get his message across is as significant as the incredible body of work he produced. His was an amazing contribution that can never be underestimated.”
Robert Phillips, DPM, also drew considerable inspiration from the work of Dr. Root and cites the pioneer’s pervasive influence.
“Just about everything he taught can be found in the literature in bits and pieces,” says Dr. Phillips, the Director of Podiatric Residency at the Coatesville Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Coatesville, Pa.
“I have found Dr. Root to be a dynamic person in constantly trying to continue to develop his ideas and listen to new ideas. He had a type of continuous learning attitude that was very influential on me and caused me to constantly review and rethink even the most basic concepts. His vision of combining the knowledge of physiology and anatomy with the knowledge of mechanics and engineering was also very influential in my practice.”
Dr. Phillips says Dr. Root’s innovations have fueled modern orthotic technology.
“In the field of orthotics, he popularized the use of a non-weighbearing casting technique and the use of thermoplastic in making orthotics,” points out Dr. Phillips. “Almost all orthotic laboratories today use various forms of his techniques for making orthotics.”
Dr. Richie concurs and emphasizes that “Dr. Root ensured the integrity of the technology (of orthotic fabrication and biomechanics) and provided the impetus for the widening of knowledge embraced by the podiatric profession in the last half of the 20th century.”