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.
Patrick A. DeHeer, DPM