In Memory Of Richard O. Lundeen, DPM

Patrick DeHeer DPM FACFAS

On Sept. 3, 2011, podiatry lost one of its true innovators and legendary figures, Richard O. Lundeen, DPM. He was tragically hit by a car while riding a motor scooter. Although Rick had been out of podiatry for several years, his influence remains profound.

Along with David Gurvis, DPM, Rick was one of the founding fathers of podiatric ankle arthroscopy. His textbook, Manual of Ankle and Foot Arthroscopy, was a groundbreaking text on a previously taboo topic for the podiatric community. He spent countless hours teaching his colleagues this new arthroscopic technique and sharing his knowledge and skills to further our profession. The dedication of his book says it the best: “This book is dedicated to those in the profession with the foresight to recognize the value of a new procedure and the courage to develop and teach it.”

Not only was he a leader in podiatric arthroscopy, he was also a brilliant biomechanics expert and a cofounder of Allied OSI Labs. He understood the symbiotic relationship between biomechanics and surgery better than anyone I have ever seen. According to Rick, to be a good surgeon, you had to understand biomechanics.

More than anything, Dr. Lundeen was my mentor. I would not be the physician I am today if Rick had not been involved in my education. Like any teacher-pupil relationship, ours had many nuances. We had drifted apart over the past decade until he contacted me recently one Sunday afternoon. He had ruptured his Achilles tendon and asked if I would repair it for him. This would not be the first time I had operated on Rick. Several years ago, I treated his broken ankle. I had forgotten about the ankle fracture until I started to write this tribute to him. When I fixed his ankle, I was much younger and terrified to be operating on him. Fortunately, we both did very well.

Like most doctors, Rick was a terrible patient. He came in for one postoperative visit after his recent surgery. We spoke on the phone a few times so I knew he was doing quite well (well enough to be riding a motor scooter on the tragic day of his death). I was always honored he had chosen me for his operation.

Despite our few conversations over the past months, I will regret until the day I die that I never told him thank you.

Thank you for instilling confidence in me. Thank you for teaching me about arthroscopy. Thank you for your insights into the relationship between biomechanics and surgery. Thank you for your emphasis on efficiency. Thank you for having the courage to fight the battles that allowed younger practitioners, like me, to be able to perform the more advanced surgical procedures that were unheard of at the time. Most importantly, thank you for believing in me.

Please do not make the mistake I have made. Take a moment and send an e-mail, text or better yet, send a handwritten note to anyone who had an influence on your career before you lose the chance.

One of my favorite musicians is Michael Franti and one of my favorite songs of his, “Life In The City,” contains a line that has even more meaning to me after Sept. 3. The line reads, “You never know how long you’re gonna live ‘til you die.”

Do not wait another day because it may be a day you or your mentor do not have. Say thank you and do it now.

Rest in peace, Richard O. Lundeen, DPM. Know that you have influenced numerous, taught several and healed many.

Your pupil,

Patrick A. DeHeer, DPM

Comments

Sorry for the loss of your friend and mentor Patrick. My heart goes out to his family.

I never knew him personally but was one of his many disciples within the realm of ankle arthroscopy. A great loss to our profession, truly. May he rest in peace.

Well said Pat. I spent one month with Dr. Lundeen as a fourth-year student in September 1995. I always remember that month fondly and the occasional times I spoke with him since I began my practice here in Indianapolis. He was an excellent teacher and I am sorry to see him gone. He taught many excellent podiatric physicians including yourself. His legacy will live on in podiatry, in Indianapolis, in you and all his other students.

Dr. DeHeer,

I am truly sorry for the loss of your friend, Dr. Lundeen, but please know that he passed knowing and understanding you more than you think, he called you to help him, that says it all!

I found you while I was searching for information regarding Accessory Navicular (?), my 12 year old daughter, Olivia, suffers from it, and she is a competitive cheerleader. Olivia practices 2 hours 4 nights a week plus hours of tumbling. This started about 2 years ago when she rolled her ankle, and since it has been a back and forth irritant, and when inflamed causes her a great deal of pain. Our Orthopedic Dr. has taught her the drill of wrapping, icing, and staying off it when inflamed, and then continue normal activity. He has explained the intensity of the surgery and the 3 - 6 month recovery time, yet she is still young for this, and he would prefer other methods, physical therapy, ortho support in shoe, wrapping and all the above, and Olivia obviously does not want surgery. After reading about some of your procedures and what you specialize in, I wanted to ask you what your suggestion is with this issue, and or is there other options with a less abrasive type of surgery.

I hope to get some insight on the issue, as it would be great to get some relief for Olivia as she has a long athletic road ahead. Thank you in advance for your time, and I will look forward to your response.

Anne Marie

Hi Ann Marie,
If you email me directly, it will be easier for me to respond to your question.

padeheer@sbcglobal.net

Patrick A. DeHeer, DPM

I too had the opportunity to extern with him. For a 4th year student who hadn't yet understood what the true scope of practice in podiatry was, I saw and learned a great deal in the short time. He was truly a pioneer in literature, surgical techniques and instruments. I believe he also designed an STJ implant. He will be missed.

Hi Pat.

Every time I'm in the OR and have a rough time of it, I remember Dr. Lundeen and want to thank him now for beating us residents up a little in the operating room. I am a better person for knowing him and truly appreciate his influence on me.

I want to thank him, you and the few other attendings at Winona who put up with us residents and gave of themselves.

Thank you,

Vafa

Pat, thank you for writing such a touching tribute to Rick. He so enjoyed teaching and working with students and residents. It was one thing that he truly enjoyed. Life will not be the same without him.

Becky Lundeen

Dr. DeHeer,

I am sorry and saddened by Dr. Lundeen's unexpected passing. The experience at Winona with Dr. Lundeen, yourself and the other attendings was invaluable. I thank you all for always taking the time to teach us. I know Dr. Lundeen respected you very much, even though he was sometimes a man of few words. I wish you and your family only continued success and happiness. Rest in peace Dr. Lundeen. You will be missed.

Fondly,
Jennifer Findling

Wonderful tribute, Pat.

I'm very sorry to hear about Rick's passing. We worked together for a couple years in the orthotics lab when he was a student at the Illinois College of Podiatry, spending many hours discussing biomechanics and various ways to redesign traditional orthoses. Of course, our discussions often drifted to the latest cars. We collaborated on various ways of integrating clinical research with clinical practice via early gait analysis studies with the Kistler Force Plate. It was his knowledge of physics that led us to interpreting the triplane graphs that later became the standard for force plate statistical reports.

The last time I spoke with him at length was during the planning stages of OSI. We would have worked together beyond that, but the logistics of a move from Chicago to Indy prevented this.

Yes, that was a long time ago but I'll always remember him as a brilliant and innovative researcher as well as a realistic clinician ... quite a pioneer.
His contributions to the field of biomechanics and orthotic fabrication were awesome.

My thoughts and prayers are with all of you who are family members and close associates.

Thank you for this. I read this shortly after my father passed and I return on occasion to remind myself of the brilliant man that he was. I think of him often and this is one of the most beautiful ways of remembering. For that I am grateful.

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