Shriners Children’s New England Prosthetics and Orthotics Manager Brock McConkey has always been interested in building and creating. When he started out, he never imagined he would be building and creating life-changing devices for kids. Or that his adventures would allow him, literally, to circle the globe.
Up for the challenge
Growing up in Vero Beach, Florida, McConkey enjoyed woodworking with his father, constructing Legos and learning the art of glassblowing. After graduating from high school, a chance call from the owner of a local prosthetics and orthotics lab would end up charting his course for the future. “I had no idea what prosthetics or orthotics was, but it sounded really cool,” he said.
McConkey worked part-time fabricating prosthetics, but his goal was to work with people. “One day my boss told me I could stay in the back and build things, but if I wanted to see patients I would have to go to school,” he said. “I realized I could do this work anywhere in the world, and it just felt right.”
He attended California State University, Dominguez Hills, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in health science with a focus in prosthetics and orthotics.
McConkey was first introduced to Shriners Children’s while in California. As a student, he visited the Shriners Children’s locations in Los Angeles and Sacramento. “I really fell in love with Shriners Children’s,” he recalled. “I wanted to be a part of the unique and challenging cases that they were treating.”
When a prosthetist/orthotist position opened up at the Shriners Children’s location in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 2003, McConkey jumped at the opportunity. “The job description included travel to international clinics four times a year,” he said. “I saw that and knew it was perfect for me.” He interviewed in California, and without ever visiting the Springfield location or spending time in the Northeast, accepted an offer and moved across the country.
A passion for global change
Soon McConkey was traveling to outreach clinics in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, St. Thomas, St. Croix and Cyprus. “It was really exciting to build relationships with patients and learn about their culture,” McConkey recalled. “I raised my hand to go on every trip I could.”
His passion for outreach work has led McConkey on many exciting adventures. In 2010, he volunteered to help a group of adults who’ve had amputations climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. In 2022, McConkey traveled to Kenya and Ethiopia on behalf of an organization whose mission is to improve the lives of children with limb loss. He’s scheduled to make three more such trips this year. He also travels with Shriners Children’s to participate in outreach efforts, including a recent clinic in Cyprus.
His easy-going nature and extensive experience help McConkey solve complex issues when resources are limited. “Each trip is equally rewarding. It’s fun to try to navigate the challenges that arise and still make the prosthetics for the kids,” he said. “We show them that they can do everything they want to do and watch them make friends for a lifetime with kids who are just like them.”
Throughout his many years as a practitioner at Shriners Children’s New England, McConkey has helped countless patients achieve their goals and accomplish things they never thought possible. Whether he is fitting a child for their very first prosthesis or designing a custom attachment to help them participate in a sport or play an instrument, McConkey forms special bonds with patients and families that often last far beyond their care at Shriners Children’s.
Using his skills to help kids across the globe keeps McConkey engaged, energized and constantly growing as a professional. “Outreach motivates me and keeps me going,” he said. “I’m still learning, 27 years later, on each outreach trip and every day at work. Every time you get a kid up walking and running, it just never gets old.”