James C. Russ, CO, professor emeritus of orthotics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, died on Feb. 25 at the age of 77 of a heart attack in his home in Glenview, Illinois.
“Jim was a visionary and a leader in our field,” said Michael Brncick, MEd, CPO, instructor in physical medicine and rehabilitation. “When he started in the profession, orthotists primarily worked with prescriptions. Now, we are asked for recommendations and participate in overall patient care. That was due in large part to Jim. He played a big role in increasing our responsibility in the treatment of patients.”
Russ started his teaching career in the prosthetics-orthotics center in 1968. He became the center’s first director in 1973 and held a faculty appointment at Feinberg for 39 years. During his time at the medical school, Russ successfully established post‐secondary programs, standardized curricula, and established orthotic residencies. He trained many students for practitioner‐level certification in orthotics and helped to elevate orthotics from a trade to an allied health profession. He was also known for his specialty in developing orthopedic devices. For instance, he contributed to modifications of the wheelchair and neck braces.
Russ retired in the mid-1990s. He was awarded the medical school’s Prosthetic Orthotic Center Award for 25 years in Orthotic Education in 1992, which recognized his commitment, service, and dedicated performance in orthotic education. Russ also received the American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists (AAOP) Award for Outstanding Educator in Orthotics and Prosthetics in 1997. Russ was a member of the AAOP, the American Orthotic & Prosthetic Association, and the American Board for Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics and Pedorthics.
“Jim had an effect on all the students he taught. He reinforced the idea of orthotics being a valued medical profession and helped develop orthotic education,” said Brncick. “His students would say ‘I learned so much not only about orthotics, but about life.’ He provided them with good moral ethics for the profession. He really left his mark. When I teach, I still use some of his techniques and his words, they still ring true today.”
Born in Toledo, Ohio, Russ trained to become a Certified Orthotist at Georgia Warm Springs Foundation in 1957. He is survived by his wife of 56 years, Janice; three daughters, Kathy Biondi, Nancy Mier and Leslie; six grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter.