A woman should be two things: who and what she wants. In a 70.3% male-dominated workforce, being a woman in the field comes with its own unique challenges. We must be aggressive, but not overbearing. We must be empathetic, but not emotional. We must be gentle, but still, have a firm hand when managing difficult patients. However, the female leaders in our field have surpassed all expectations. They fight for our equal rights in the field while still trying to build up those around them. After all, true queens help to adjust each other’s crowns.
I was able to speak with three amazing women in the field. Each of them had their own unique story and perspective about the specialty. They had various ways of becoming interested in the field and different journeys that led them to leadership roles within podiatry. It showcases that not everyone is meant to embark on the same path, but rather our different journeys are what allow us to develop the field for the better.
Dr. Patricia Nicholas
The first podiatrist I spoke with was Dr. Patricia Nicholas. Dr. Nicholas works at the Florida Orthopedic Center in Fort Myers and has been in practice for over twenty years. She currently serves as the President of the New York State Podiatric Medical Association and Kindest Hearts Foundation. She was recently awarded for her humanitarian work by the International Federation of Podiatrists and the American Podiatric Medical Association.
Dr. Nicholas always wanted to be a doctor but discovered her passion for podiatry when she began working for one during her senior year of college at St. Francis in Brooklyn, NY. Dr. Frank Spinosa became a mentor for Dr. Nicholas and inspired her to pursue a career in podiatry. He even took her to some of the schools, where she fell in love with the profession. He also inspired her to lead in the field, as he was very involved in NYSPMA. As she became involved in various positions in her local chapter, she was inspired by other DPMs.
Speaking from experience, she has advice for those wanting to pursue leadership positions. First, she encourages everyone to be involved in their local podiatric leadership groups. This helps open new doors, makes people aware of the resources around them and builds professional connections that may not have existed before. For women in the field, she states that we should not be intimidated by the men in the profession. As the second woman president of the NYSPMA and the first minority in this position, Dr. Nicholas says: “demand respect on the way you act. Don’t overcompensate but know your worth. Furthermore, always follow through on what you say you’re going to do.” Gender can be an easy excuse for someone to blame why someone is not following through and giving people a reason to doubt you should be avoided above many other things. When she was pregnant in residency, Dr. Nicholas always took call, showed up to work, and worked harder no matter the circumstances of her personal life. She always led by example and went above and beyond to make sure she was performing to the best of her abilities.
“Demand respect on the way you act. Don’t overcompensate but know your worth. Furthermore, always follow through on what you say you’re going to do.”
As Dr. Nicholas reflected on her career, she reiterated how great of a profession podiatry truly is. She said, “You can be successful, but you have to want to be successful.” She believes there is not a barrier in the profession, but rather the attitude towards the profession. Any perceived barrier is not that, but rather an opportunity to do better. As an immigrant, Dr. Nicholas realized this was something that could make her stronger if she viewed it that way. Even if there was any resistance to her as a female leader, Dr. Nicholas’s attitude did not change. She knew her worth and knew she deserved to be where she was. She has always been treated with respect because she conducted herself in a way that reflected this.
Dr. Nicholas continues to fight to be a part of the healthcare team. The skillset podiatrists possess isn’t well known. Dr. Nicholas plans to continue to educate the public and other healthcare professionals until we have a place at the table as part of the healthcare team. As for women in the field, she feels that more women need to take leadership positions. While it can be difficult to have a family and lead in the field, Dr. Nicholas again emphasizes having the right attitude and being able to follow through. Finally, Dr. Nicholas is most proud of two accomplishments: First, she is a mother to three incredible children. Also, she also does non-profit work in Haiti. She adopted a town in Haiti and provides food, education, and healthcare to over 200 children in that community.
By Elizabeth Ansert
Barry School of Podiatric Medicine
The Strong Women of Podiatry:
Leading with Heart and Mind
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