Restoring Humanity Through Medicine

The top of Caitlin Peters’ LinkedIn page features a quote from Hippocrates, the ancient Greek physician credited as the father of medicine.

“Wherever the art of medicine is loved, there is also a love of humanity.”

Caitlin Peters
Caitlin Peters Provided by Caitlin Peters

As a master’s student in prosthetics and orthotics at UT Southwestern Medical Center, the quote has special meaning for Ms. Peters.

Each year, thousands of people lose vital motor functions due to trauma or disease. Crafting sophisticated tools such as artificial limbs and braces helps restore self-confidence and quality of life to amputees, people with musculoskeletal diseases, and those with injuries. Put another way, it gives them back some of their humanity.

“I’m learning how I can impact people’s lives by helping them walk and get back on their feet,” she said. “Being at UT Southwestern has helped me understand and build better relationships with patients through expressing greater compassion and empathy – all of which is required not just in my field but in medicine overall.”

A native of Clemson, South Carolina, Ms. Peters spent much of her free time during her youth painting and drawing. Over time, she developed an interest in patient care, and her artistic talents naturally lent themselves to the work of creating artificial limbs and braces.

"I found it to be the perfect blend of patient care, which I’ve always loved about medicine, and my background in art …"

Caitlin Peters Prosthetics and Orthotics Student
UT Southwestern Medical Center

“I found it to be the perfect blend of patient care, which I’ve always loved about medicine, and my background in art, where I’ve worked in ceramics and sculpture,” she said. “Developing plaster molds and models all by hand is the kind of hands-on, artistic experience I’ve always loved.”

Out of the dozen or so prosthetics and orthotics programs nationwide, UT Southwestern checked the most boxes.

“UT Southwestern rose to the top pretty quickly,” said Ms. Peters, who was drawn to the program’s reputation and the fact that its professors were practicing prosthetists and orthotists who could share their experiences treating patients.

Caitlin Peters performs a bench alignment on a prosthetic leg with an instrument
Caitlin Peters performs a bench alignment on a transtibial prosthesis in the student fabrication lab at UT Southwestern in October 2020. Provided by Caitlin Peters
Caitlin Peters removes material from a plaster leg cast with a file
Caitlin Peters modifies a plaster cast in the student fabrication lab at UT Southwstern in October 2020. Provided by Caitlin Peters

Active on campus, Ms. Peters is Co-President of the prosthetics and orthotics Class of 2021 and serves on numerous committees, including the School of Health Profession’s Student Advisory Committee.

She’s also been busy during clinical hours. During the past year, COVID-19 has affected patients in ways that some might not expect.

“Fewer people have kept up with their annual check-ups and doctors’ appointments,” she said. “As a result, we’ve seen a rise in amputations because certain serious diseases have been allowed to get much worse.”

Ms. Peters expects to graduate in December and will complete a year-long residency in prosthetics and another in orthotics before sitting for her state certification boards. Her goal is to work in a children’s hospital.

“To be in a pediatric clinic, working with kids … that would really appeal to me,” she said. “To be able to take a kid and help them by giving them a prosthesis or something to support their body so they can lead a better childhood, that goal keeps me pushing forward.”