DR. ELIZABETH SANDERS
Dr. Elizabeth A. Sanders, DPM, FACFAOM, AACFAS is the second-year Advanced Foot and Ankle Surgical Fellow at the University Hospitals Regional Hospitals under the direction of Dr. Mark Mendeszoon, DPM, FACFAS, FACFAOM. She received her Bachelor of Music degree from Barry University in Miami Shores, FL. She completed her residency servicing as Chief Resident at Boston University Medical Center in Boston, MA.
Q1.What made you want to be a DPM?
I did not always want to be a doctor. When I was in high school, I was adamant that I would someday be a clarinet performer and music professor. In college, I majored in clarinet performance and music education. I thought I had the talent, but I, unfortunately, did not have the passion to pursue music as a career.
Medicine provides so many challenges, but it is a career I am very passionate about. I believe I have always been drawn to it because I enjoy challenging myself. I started to pursue a career in podiatry during my junior year of college by shadowing physicians in different specialties. In seeking careers in medicine, I was drawn to the variety of aspects of podiatry including sport’s medicine, wounds, reconstructive surgery, dermatology, limb salvage, pediatrics, and geriatrics. Even today, rather than specializing in only one aspect of podiatry, I like to expose myself to all aspects of foot and ankle pathology. Our profession is constantly growing and evolving. It is an exciting time to be in the field of Podiatry.
Q2.What made you want to become a leader in the profession?
I truly enjoy practicing podiatry, seeing patients, and performing surgery, but my biggest passion is in academia. I have had the most amazing mentors along my career path that have invested a great deal in me and my success. I believe I owe it to my mentors to pass their wisdom forward. I am an advocate that there is no better way to treat patients than with a collaboration with other foot and ankle specialists, more importantly, other medical specialists for a multi-disciplinary focus to make our patients better.
Q3.Who is someone (not a DPM) that inspires you, and why?
My big sister, Katrina, inspires me every day. Being my big sister, she has obviously always been in my life. She has been my biggest cheerleader through my successes, and she has been the one to teach me to stand back up, brush it off, and come back stronger through my failures. She is a very successful dental hygienist, instructor, international lecturer, mentor, and promoter of women’s empowerment. In fact, we are currently working on a few projects together, as well as initiating a lecture series in a collaborative movement to bring the dental and medical communities together. We are hoping to bring our movement to major cities all over the country. Stay tuned!
Also: my Mom. My Mom had only the highest expectations for me and only accepted 100% effort from me at all times. When I was a child and I fell down, she told me to “tell the ground I was sorry.” In adulthood, when I “fell down,” she encouraged me to use that energy for the impotence not only to try again but to flourish even more so the next time. Even though my ambitions with my major career change—and constantly moving all over the country seemed absolutely insane and out of reach—my Mom was the first to offer me the inspirational foundation to make my dreams happen.
My Mom recently passed away in October 2018 tragically and very unexpectedly. She suffered an anoxic brain injury after collapsing and, unfortunately, we do not know the cause. Fortunately, my Mom was able to fulfill her lifetime desire to donate her organs and tissue for research purposes and to those in need so that they may continue to live prosperous lives. I am so proud of my Mom; I am honored to be her daughter. Even after her death, she inspires me to be a better woman and physician, treats my patients like family, travel, explore, take pictures, work hard, give to others, and love everyone.
Q4.What is some advice you would have for anyone wanting to be a leader in this profession?
You must have the passion to be a leader and, more importantly, you must have a passion for our profession. It is easy to see current famous surgeons and leaders in our profession and assume that they live a glorious lifestyle of traveling, suits, heels, and fancy dinners. What is not seen and appreciated enough are the countless sleepless nights of putting together lectures and writing papers after a long day of clinic and surgical cases. With so much dedication to your career inevitably comes countless sacrifices. Similarly, I can relate to physicians who like to stay grounded in their clinical practices to constantly be available for their patients. However, to be a leader in the profession, it is essential to take your ideas outside of your practice and collaborate with other medical providers.
Q5.What is some advice you have for women in this profession?
We have all been there: you walk into the clinic room and introduce yourself to the patient and they immediately assume you are the “nurse.” You go out into public wearing scrubs and people assume “you are obviously a nurse.” There is always going to be someone that thinks you look “too young” or “too little” or, I suppose, too feminine to be a Doctor. My advice: politely correct them, tell them you are the Doctor, smile to yourself, and remember how amazing you are. You’ve worked very hard to get to where you are, and you deserve that respect.
Q6.If you had to start over, knowing what you know now, what would you do differently?
In all honesty, I would not change a thing. I have made a lot of mistakes, but I aim to make them right. My career path has been full of bumps, twists, and turns, but I have learned some amazing lessons along the way, and that path has gotten me to where I am today. I still have big plans and expectations for myself, and I am very excited to accomplish my big goals.
Q7.What is an accomplishment you are most proud of?
Attending a mini-fellowship in Kurgan, Russia at the Ilizarov Scientific Center for Restorative Traumatology and Orthopaedics. By far, my favorite surgical procedures involve external fixation. I had the privilege of being able to go to Kurgan, Russia where the technique of external fixation was pioneered by Gavriil Abramovich Ilizarov. I attended lectures, lectured in Grand Rounds myself, scrubbed surgical cases, and experienced the culture while staying in Kurgan. I learned too much, made lifetime friends and colleagues, and made memories I will never forget. I am already planning a return trip!
By Yuna Farah
Kent State University School of Podiatric Medicine
The Strong Women of Podiatry:
Leading with Heart and Mind
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