Dr. Jennifer Spector
I had the privilege of speaking with was Dr. Jennifer Spector. Dr. Spector practices at Cafengiu Podiatry Sports Medicine in Marlton, NJ. She has been practicing for fifteen years and serves as the current President of the American Association for Women Podiatrists (AAWP). For many physicians and medical students, we start off knowing we want to work in the medical field from a young age. Dr. Spector may be an exception to this trend. Her family says she wanted to be a plumber when she grew up. She disagrees. Dr. Spector always wanted to be a doctor because of her childhood pediatrician, who later became a role model. However, she became interested in podiatry when she worked as a medical assistant in a podiatrist’s office. While she worked as a medical assistant, she saw people with a wide variety of pathologies, but they almost always left the office feeling better than when they came in. Dr. Spector states that one of the best decisions in her life was choosing to go to podiatry school in Philadelphia.
Another aspect of Dr. Spector’s life that inspired her to become a DPM was her mother. Her mother is a diabetic who has undergone several limb salvage procedures. Dr. Spector experienced what was happening not only with the knowledge of a physician but also as a family member. This helped her gain perspective of what a family goes through during these procedures and the healthcare process. This experience also helped Dr. Spector realize she had a unique perspective to offer and use in her leadership positions.
While in school, Dr. Spector became involved in leadership positions such as APMSA student body president and student council. She greatly enjoyed the legislative aspect of these positions and felt this was a good basis for leadership and practicing skills. As her career furthered, she became involved in AAWP and attended a conference. She saw the positive environment there and how relaxed everyone was. This was when Dr. Spector decided this was the environment she wanted to promote in the profession. She became the AAWP Scientific Conference Chair and developed skills she never thought she had through this experience. This positive and educational environment is what continues to motivate her to be a leader in the field. Dr. Spector realizes how stressful healthcare can be, so she feels it is imperative that this positive and relaxed environment be created.
For those wanting to become involved in leadership, Dr. Spector encourages podiatrists to put themselves out there and volunteer. Many organizations have things they want to do but may not have the time or resources to do so. This gives others an opportunity to step up and lead. She also encourages us to be each other’s resources. She feels that we all need to support each other, especially the women in the field. After all, true queens adjust each other’s crowns, not laugh that they are tilted.
For those wanting to become involved in leadership, Dr. Spector encourages podiatrists to put themselves out there and volunteer.
During her career, Dr. Spector has realized that every day is a learning experience. We are constantly growing and evolving into who we are meant to become. So, it is important as a profession that we stay on top of all the changes happening in the field and keep learning. There is no perfect podiatrist or person. So, only by bettering ourselves can we better the profession. This is especially important when other healthcare professionals don’t understand our role and what we are trained to do. Dr. Spector is educating others around her in what podiatrists are capable of and reiterating “Yes, I am a surgeon”. While Dr. Spector has always felt respected in podiatry and with AAWP, educating other healthcare professionals is where she has found the most resistance as a female leader in this profession.
With regards to being a professional and successful female podiatric leader, Dr. Spector feels we have made great strides in equality. Initially, Dr. Spector felt that women were not able to stand up for themselves. Now, we are challenging the standards and fighting for the life we want as female professionals. We no longer have to be accepting and submissive of things we don’t like. If anything, we are a barrier to ourselves with this attitude. If we are able to respectfully make our opinion and concerns heard, Dr. Spector feels that the environment now is willing to listen. It’s also okay to take time for yourself and relax. While most females in this profession are Type A personalities, it’s okay to not always have the right answer and give yourself a break.
With no regrets, Dr. Spector marches forward to fight for what she believes in and lead by example. She is proud to have lectured on the national level at AAWP and for the Goldfarb foundation. While she does not deny making mistakes, she feels her mistakes have gotten her to where she is now. She encourages more women to take leadership positions in the profession. She feels that keeping women in the forefront will really help make progress for the profession, female professionals, and the healthcare system as a whole.
Collectively, their advice is to conduct yourself with respect, follow through, and don’t be afraid to try for leadership positions in the field. If there is an obstacle in your way, it is only an opportunity to better yourself.
With these women and many others leading the way, the future of podiatry looks very bright. Not only are they encouraged to young professionals in this field, but they are taking it upon themselves to educate those around them about the special and specific skill set our profession can offer. Furthermore, they are mentoring women on how to gain and keep respect in a 70.3% male-dominated field. Collectively, their advice is to conduct yourself with respect, follow through, and don’t be afraid to try for leadership positions in the field. If there is an obstacle in your way, it is only an opportunity to better yourself. Finally, support and uplift one another. We are only as good as we treat each other. An African proverb says, “People who want to go fast go alone. Those who want to go far, go together.” By working with each other, assisting each other, and supporting one another, we will be able to not only have equality within the field but also in the healthcare world.
By Elizabeth Ansert
Barry School of Podiatric Medicine
The Strong Women of Podiatry
Leading with Heart and Mind
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