ETSU's orthotics and prosthetics program is one of 15
such programs in the nation and the first in Tennessee.

Dr. Kyle Leister is one of the few people in the world with a Ph.D. and clinical  training in orthotics and prosthetics, and he’s now the one leading the development of East Tennessee State University’s Orthotics and Prosthetics Program – one of just 15 nationwide and the first of its kind in Tennessee.    
Originally from Pennsylvania, Leister’s journey to East Tennessee was not exactly a linear one, but after a few campus visits, it was hard to picture being anywhere else.    
“There are all these resources here at ETSU that made coming here a ‘no-brainer’ decision,” said Leister, an assistant professor in the College of Clinical and Rehabilitative Health Sciences and the program director for Orthotics and Prosthetics.    
Leister received his undergraduate training at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, studying sports medicine and athletic training – a degree he parlayed into a job with the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins upon graduation. From there, he moved to Los Angeles, where he worked on the medical team at Paramount Pictures before electing to pursue a master’s degree in orthotics and prosthetics at Northwestern University in Chicago.    
His journey did not stop there.    
After moving to Texas and the University of Houston, Leister completed his residency in orthotics and prosthetics and began practicing as a certified orthotist and prosthetist, in addition to earning a second master’s degree. He then transferred his practice to Syracuse University, where he obtained his Ph.D.    
Though he is a highly trained clinician, Leister is also a dedicated educator driven by a desire to give students the tools they need to be successful, compassionate clinicians.    
“I came to a realization that, if I can do this, anyone can do it – you just need the right people surrounding you to support you through it,” Leister said. “I feel like I can be that person for others. Teaching students how to do science well -- that’s going to set them up for success no matter what they end up doing, especially in a field like O&P.”    
Housed in Allen Hall in Building 2 on the James H. Quillen VA Medical Center campus, Leister was excited about the prospect of being on the ground floor of a program just getting started.    
“After my first interview, when I came back to campus, I went into our laboratory space and saw this big, beautiful blank canvas,” said Leister. “I don’t have to build it myself, but I have a say in how things shake out. Having been in many different O&P labs, I have an opportunity to improve things I wish I could have improved in other places.”    
And as the program prepares to admit its first cohort in January 2025, Leister’s got his eyes set on the ultimate goal of ensuring the entering students leave as excellent clinicians focused on improving patient outcomes.    
“This program has got to be successful and perform at a high level, and I came here to do just that,” said Leister. “There’s no way we are going to settle for anything less than excellence.”   

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