Uncovering a Hidden Gem
Writing Competition 2019
“Why podiatry!?” This is a question you should be ready to answer if you choose to take a path to become a DPM. Each student has their own journey to this profession. Coincidentally, community service was how I was introduced to podiatry; however, it wasn’t anything I was directly involved in. Thankfully, my older brother has always been really interested in medicine. During his undergraduate career, he was involved with an organization called Happy Feet. Their primary goal was to serve the homeless population by providing free clinics focused on adequate foot care. As a pre-med student, my brother’s main purpose for joining was to receive exposure on health care that benefits the local community, as well as an opportunity to build up an organization with friends. In return, he received more than he expected. For example, he realized how misunderstood the homeless population can be. There are many assumptions, but the reality is that many of them were successful, young, educated, struggling with bad luck, or battling mental health issues. While there are many aspects to serving this population, Happy Feet’s intentions are simple – to treat them from the ground up. With better foot care, the homeless population is one step towards a better situation. However, opportunities like Happy Feet are few and far in between.
PMA’s mission is to inform the community of the role and value of podiatric medicine, promote parity with other healthcare fields, and educate students on the benefits of becoming a foot and ankle specialist.
Talking to many of our podiatry peers, we often hear the term “hidden gem” used to describe the profession. Why is it that this field remains absent in the thoughts of many students aspiring to be physicians? In fact, application numbers have generally been declining for the past 10 years. The Podiatric Medicine Advocacy (PMA) group was founded on this question. Our original group founders challenged the notion that the veil that concealed our profession was anything but positive. PMA’s mission is to inform the community of the role and value of podiatric medicine, promote parity with other healthcare fields, and educate students on the benefits of becoming a foot and ankle specialist. We are encouraging young people to be knowledgeable about foot health and those who take care of it.
As the current leadership, we have decided to continue building on this model of using community service as a vessel to promote podiatry. We find lots of value within this dynamic because it provides a symbiotic relationship. As volunteers, we gain professional development skills like planning, collaboration, and presenting. Furthermore, we learn various clinical skills such that they can be adapted to a high school setting. On the other hand, participants get to experience an interactive workshop with education on the profession. With this setup of current podiatry students presenting to younger students, we have achieved a good balance of education, fun, and fulfillment outside of normal academics. This combination is what we believe community service should be and what we are continually striving to achieve.
Our most current iteration of workshops consists of 3 separate components: introduction to podiatry, a case study, and an interactive demonstration. Each component was designed with a specific objective in mind. Our goal for these workshops is to provide engaging activities while being informative at the same time. We believe that hands-on activities are the best way to introduce medicine to high schoolers.
By planning and interacting with their teachers, we are able to visit their classrooms. Getting access to their setting allows the participants to feel comfortable within their everyday environment while still learning new concepts.
We target schools within the greater Des Moines community. By planning and interacting with their teachers, we are able to visit their classrooms. Getting access to their setting allows the participants to feel comfortable within their everyday environment while still learning new concepts. Our introduction to podiatry is a game show. It is a nice icebreaker because they get to use their phones, pick a nickname, and compete against their classmates as they try to answer questions about the podiatric field. It is fairly quick but is designed to set a lighthearted mood for the rest of the presentation. Next, we go through a case study that demonstrates the depth of podiatry. From injury to the operating room, students learn about the relevant anatomy, physiology, and surgery involved in one individual example. Finally, we materialize these concepts with hands-on surgical workshops where students are broken up into small groups and partnered with a PMA volunteer. We hope these small groups and their subsequent discussions are the conduits of interests in this profession.
One of the most rewarding experiences of our events is watching students’ confidence grow working towards the completion of tying their first surgical knot. Most importantly, these are the moments that PMA volunteers get to mentor the students. We often hear the most provoking questions during these teaching sessions and are allowed a window into the perspective of that student. It is easy to forget that our volunteers are not so far removed. At the end of every presentation, we ask the students if they had learned something new that day. We love the moments when students say they have gained a new found appreciation for this field. When we read the feedback forms that the students provide us, we cherish the mentions of how the medical field and surgery is more accessible to them as they once believed. Breaking barriers and inspiring opportunities are at the core of our club.
If our goals and outcomes are all met, there would no longer be a need for PMA. In fact, it would be our greatest accomplishment to retire PMA into the halls of history. But we are still faced with low applications, push back from medical regulators, and just a plain old misunderstanding of our abilities. There is still a lot more work to be done. According to the AACPM, there were 618 available spots for 883 applicants in the 2017-2018 academic year. These are concerning numbers, and we need to continue advocating in order to attract more highly qualified applicants. We are working in the realm of high school education, but have aspirations to follow in the footsteps of organizations such as Happy Feet that cater to a broader undergraduate student population while helping underserved local communities. We are using our model of service to advocating for our profession while bettering our community. Someday, we hope that the students we mentored follow in our footsteps and lead the next generation through service.
by Li-Yuan Derek Lee, and Ersta Ferryanto
Student Org: Podiatric Medicine Advocacy Group
School: Des Moines University College of Podiatry Medicine and Surgery
1st Annual Hallux Magazine Writing Competition – 2019
Hallux Magazine Writing Competition – Finalist, 1st place winners
Have the urge to write something? Are you motivated to publish something worth sharing? Want to give advice, helpful tips, or podiatry news to the younger generation? Visit our Authors section before submitting. Get in contact with us and one of our student journalists will reach out to you. We hope to get from people around the world that way.