Dr. Gabriel Santamarina
Podiatric Sports Medicine Fellowship, Mercy Hospital Network- Miami, FL
Gabriel Santamarina, DPM, AACFAS, Clinical Professor BUSPM
Q1: There aren’t many podiatric programs with a concentration in Sports Medicine in the country. Despite its exclusivity, when did you realize you were drawn to this specific fellowship program?
A: I knew that I wanted to apply for a sports medicine fellowship as soon as I saw the connection between diabetic limb salvage and biomechanics. I chose my residency because it excelled at training residents in external fixation. I always wanted to be an Ilizarov expert, but I never appreciated until I was a resident the role that biomechanics and sports medicine played in limb salvage. If you do not have a very strong grasp of the biomechanics behind a flatfoot, you cannot solve the riddle of Charcot neuroarthropathy. Gaining expertise in biomechanics made me better at every other facet of my specialty. Applying for my fellowship then became a no-brainer. Today, in private practice, I apply external fixation frames and also treat athletes and work for a major college program. My experience with one assists in treatment of the other.
Q2: Lots of sports fans and athletes of all degrees transition to fields of medicine, as I’m sure you are aware. Was this a particular subspecialty or focus that you always knew you had a passion for? Or was this more or less realized during your residency training?
A: My advice to every resident and student I meet now is to never say “no” to any opportunity, whatever it may be. If someone asked me, “Hey, do you want to be a team doctor?”, of course, I would have said yes. 100% I never thought I would be in the position I am in now. I am the son of immigrants, who today barely speak English. When I applied for my fellowship, it was with the understanding that I just wanted to be the best doctor I could be. My passion was linking high-end sports medicine and diabetic limb salvage. There’s not much difference to me between gastroc-soleal equinus in athletes versus equinus in diabetics. Dr. Losito saw something in me and I will always be grateful. I am and always will be grateful to everyone who took a chance on me. I am forever indebted to the people who opened doors for me.
Q3: What would an average day in the clinic or at the hospital entail during your fellowship?
A: There is sincerely no such thing as an average day during a fellowship. You’re responsible for everything that happens in your clinic, what happens amongst your residents, that happens during surgical cases and for also being ready to handle professional athletes. My fellowship worked for hand in glove with a professional NBA team, so I needed to be ready at all times for any situation. We started at 7:30am in our clinic, handled 40-50 patients in that day, then went to an NBA game until 12:30am, only to be back in surgery the following day to repair a torn Achilles or perform a triple arthrodesis using external fixation.
Q4: What was your favorite experience or story you can relate from your time at Mercy?
A: I helped a patient who hadn’t walked in two years, walk for the first time to renew their marriage vows. That patient had severe Charcot neuroarthropathy and also was in the sports medicine universe. They single-handedly showed me how if you don’t know sports medicine and biomechanics, you cannot handle limb salvage.
Q5: Is there any advice you have for current residents or students who might consider applying to Mercy’s Sports Medicine program?
A: (1) Never say no, you must be open to every opportunity, (2) you must have a reason to apply beyond “I love sports,” you have to have a higher calling, (3) put in the work and get to know the director, Dr. Losito, and all the residents. My fellowship meant that I also had to mentor residents and students. You must feel comfortable working in an academic setting.
By Joshua Ekladios
Temple School of Podiatric Medicine
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