The Specialties: Part I – Foot & Ankle Reconstruction

Dr. Ben Saviet, DPM – Foot & Ankle Reconstruction

By Cindy H. Duong.

Dr. Benjamin Saviet earned his Doctor of Podiatric Medicine degree at the Dr. William M. Scholl College of Podiatric Medicine in North Chicago, Illinois. He completed his residency training at St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Brighton, Massachusetts. He now works at Worchester, Massachusetts and is affiliated with St. Elizabeth’s, St. Vincent’s Medical Center and UMASS Memorial Medical Center. 

When I called Dr. Saviet, he was on his way home from instructing a cadaver lab session with his residents. He joked and asked for me to excuse him if he ever complains about the traffic during our call, to which I responded it was no issue to me at all.

One of the questions I asked him was how he decided to specialize in reconstruction, to which he replied, “I’m a person who enjoys doing stuff with my hands and likes to see the end result. You can also do a lot of good for someone who has a severe deformity and allow them to walk again.” He said what he likes most about reconstruction is how tangible it is, especially to be able to show the patient the result in their last post-op visit. “They look at the post-op x-ray on the wall, then compare to pre-op x-ray form before. Patients also appreciate seeing the difference.” He stated his favorite type of patients are engineers “because they understand how parts of the body move.”

Dr. Saviet informed me he is in the operating room once a week, and stated his caseload is about 90% reconstruction cases. However, when I inquired about his level of comfort with doing reconstruction cases at this point in time, he was humble and stated he still had much to learn.  He compared his experience as a long-distance runner to that of a resident:

“Stress and rest equals gain. That’s how you make progress. If you take yourself a little bit further than you’re comfortable, then spend time to reflect on it and train for it before and after with mental recovery, you can make a lot of gain from it. Knowing how far to stretch yourself each time is important. I’m out of my comfort zone at times, but not too far.”

“The better you do in school, the more opportunities you have that’s of your choice.”

When I asked him for advice for current students and residents about specializing in reconstruction, he suggested for students to focus on obtaining high grades in order to open opportunities for the future:

“It’s four-year schooling that determines your career trajectory. The better you do in school, the more opportunities you have that’s of your choice. Work hard in school and find a residency program that fits your personality.” For residents, he suggested they cultivate the best possible residency training they experience in order to develop their core foundation. “When you’re in your first-year residency, you’re clueless, don’t know what you’re doing, or what you’ve got yourself into. Maybe as a student, you saw a procedure that you thought you could do skin to skin, but then you realize you actually can’t.” He shared that in order to be prepared, continuing education and self-reflection were important for him while developing the foundation from people who guided him to do things the right way. “In the operating room, try to keep your cool and learn what works best for you. Part of it is learning what you did wrong and learning from them to make sure you don’t do them again. You have to be self-reflective and be hard on yourself in a constructive way, and how you can fix it next time. Being productively critical. Don’t take constructive criticism personally. You have to be able to learn from every moment, and not take it personally or shut down when someone gives you criticism.”

with any medical profession, learning never stops.

In general, though, he suggested residents use their talents while doing the things they want to do. “When you’re young, you could have the best training in the world, but the experience is needed.” He listed cadaver labs, workshops, reading, and surgical videos as ways to further one’s education because, with any medical profession, learning never stops.

  I asked Dr. Saviet what his opinions were about participating in a reconstruction fellowship, to which he responded,

“I see fellowships as something that our profession is heading towards, but not a total requirement to do for anything that we do. It’s a great opportunity for those wanting more exposure after their residency training. If you feel you need more exposure for the future, get the additional training! But for me, I felt I was exposed enough to what I wanted to do. I don’t do total ankle replacements, because I wasn’t trained on it. I’ve read the literature on how the first fifteen a surgeon does can come out, and I don’t have the volume to be good at it. If I wanted to, I’d go to a residency that does a lot of that, and maybe go to a fellowship. So it’s more of a personal question.”

When asking for tips when considering specializing in reconstruction, Dr. Saviet shared, “If you want to do reconstruction, don’t work by yourself because that is financially hard to do. Part of it is because if you want to start your own solo practice, you have to be mindful that you won’t be paid for the first 3 months, because it has to go through insurance.” 

“I personally love the stress and anxiety of surgery. It’s worth it.”

Dr. Saviet warned that reconstruction itself can have its challenges. For example, Dr. Saviet admitted that reconstruction procedures can take hours, but given his athletic history, this has not been much of a concern for him. Overall, reconstruction is hard work and demanding, where follow-ups can be challenging. “Anything involving limb salvage is a difficult subject to approach with patients. If you don’t go over it, that’s a disservice to the patient. Our profession pushes towards the surgical side of the field when others are happy not doing surgery. I personally love the stress and anxiety of surgery. It’s worth it.”

The SpecialtiesHe continued his sentiments that for reconstruction, the benefits outweigh the negatives. I had asked Dr. Saviet if he could share with me one of his most memorable moments: “I was at the mall one day with my wife, and I saw a man I recognized at a shoe store. He was minding his own business until I approached him. I had done his calcaneal fracture ORIF 12 months before. Now he is at the mall and doesn’t have any pain.” He cited similar instances with other patients, and I could see how proud he was to be able to do what he does for patients.

He also enjoys being able to communicate and collaborate with his residents, as well as the local attendings. He often communicates with them if they would like to be a part of the procedures he does and he enjoys maintaining those relationships. This is because, as he said, “Medicine is a very collaborative field.”


by Cindy Duong.

School: Temple University School of Podiatric Medicine


The Specialties

Special Edition, Surgery, Interview

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