What is your most meaningful community service experience or clinical experience to date?
My first time volunteering as a podiatry student was during my first year at UCLA’s Happy Feet Clinic, which is geared towards treating the feet of the homeless community in downtown Los Angeles. Their website describes that while “the average person walks about 4 miles a day, the average person struggling with homelessness walks 10 miles a day” (1). Their initiative speaks to me, as I’ve personally had many problems with my feet in the past, but have always been blessed with the luxury of being able to rest at home during those times. I can’t imagine how hard it must be to have to deal with lower extremity pathologies without a home.
I can’t imagine how hard it must be to have to deal with lower extremity pathologies without a home.
Initially, I was unaware of what my expectations were leading up to my first community health service project. My only instructions were to show up at 8:45 am at the Downtown Women’s Center in scrubs and to be ready to work. Naturally, as any incompetent first-year student would, I found a second year when I arrived there to give me the rundown on the day. She replied, “just take down each patients’ subjective and present it to the podiatrist. If the patient needs a callus shaved off or her toenails clipped, then you’ll do it for them.” Having absolutely zero hands-on experience shaving calluses, it was at that exact moment that I was overcome with anxiety. I shadowed my colleague’s first three patients before getting thrown into the fire myself.
After spending what seemed like thirty seconds to mentally prepare myself for potentially having to use a blade on another human being, I was already interacting with my first ever one–on–one patient. Her chief complaint was a rather large callus under her first metatarsal head. As I tried my best to exude confidence, she saw right through me and asked if I had carried out this treatment before, to which I answered truthfully, “no”. To my relief and amazement, she was astonishingly enthusiastic about being a part of my first experience shaving a callus and welcomed the opportunity of being my first ever patient. I started out shaving the callus extremely superficially and asked her if I was causing her any pain. “Did you even start yet?”, she replied, giving me the best answer I could have hoped for. I kept shaving until the skin on the plantar surface of her foot began to feel softer, which took me about 15 minutes since I was cautiously shaving very thin layers off at a time, to be sure not to draw blood.
Truthfully, I enjoyed every minute of it as I was able to establish a real connection with her as I got more comfortable with the treatment. We joked and laughed as she told me all about herself. When I was finished, she stood up and was so amazed with the amount of pain relief in her foot that she gave me a huge hug and expressed genuine thankfulness.
a renewed sense of determination as I continue with my pursuit of becoming a successful podiatric physician.
The feeling of having successfully treated someone was unmatched by anything that I have ever felt in my life and further motivated me to continue down the challenging road of becoming a physician with the reward that lies ahead. The humanism aspect of medicine is what appealed so much to begin with, and after spending so much of my first few months in medical school in a classroom, it was refreshing to be able to have this experience to put things into perspective for me and has given me a renewed sense of determination as I continue with my pursuit of becoming a successful podiatric physician.
(1) “Background.” UCLA HAPPY FEET CLINIC, http://www.uclahappyfeetclinic.org/background.html.
by Salem Lebada
School: Western University School of Podiatric Medicine
Happy Feet Clinic at UCLA
Creative Writing, Community Service
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