This interview was with former Temple University School of Podiatric Medicine alum, Dr. Ejodamen Shobowale. She is a foot and ankle surgeon who practices in the greater Houston, Texas area.
Q1. Tell me about your journey so far in Podiatric Medicine.
I went to school at Temple University in Philadelphia. After I graduated, I proceeded to complete a three-year surgical and rearfoot reconstructive residency in Kingwood Texas at Kingwood Medical Center under the umbrella of the Greater Texas Education Foundation [GTEF]. When I got done, I joined a multi-podiatry practice before branching out on my own to open my own practice.
Q2. Do you find that your job gives you the appropriate amount of work-life balance?
Not exactly. Honestly, I feel like life is what you put into it. You take out of it the amount of effort and energy you put into it. I believe that I have created a work-life integration that works for me. And if I am being completely honest, it constantly changes. Sometimes my work life takes more of my attention while at other times, my home life takes more of my attention. It is a constant struggle. I do not know that there is exactly anything like a perfect work-life balance. Instead, I would say it is a work-life integration, and that is what we should attain every time.
Q3. Do you have children, and if you do, what kind of impact have they make to your work/personal life?
I do have children. I have 2 toddlers ages 3 and 4 years old. Because of this, I have found that it is extremely imperative that I do not take myself so seriously. I have to pause often and appreciate life with them. I am still extremely driven and want to be at the peak of my career, but I also have to understand that everyone has a different journey. I should not and will not directly compare my life path with other people in the field. As such, I make sure that I am as hard-working as I can as a podiatric physician and surgeon. However, I also strive to be a very present parent to my kids. As far as adjustments, I have just had to wake up extra early to get much more work done while still spending time with my kids. This is tough because I am not a morning person!
I realized that there is NO PERFECT TIME! You have to do what is best for you. When you look back, you realize that there is really no perfect time to do the perfect thing. You will just have to make time for what is important to you.
Q4. Do you think there is an appropriate time to get married or have found while following the path to becoming a Podiatric physician?
I do not think that getting married is an issue at any point during medical school or residency. As long as you are with someone who understands the life path you have chosen, it should not matter when you actually decide to tie the knot. When we are talking about kids, now that is a whole different topic. They always say hindsight is 20/20. When I was in school, I would have never thought that it would be a great idea to have kids in medical school or in residency. However, now that I am on the other end of it, I realized that there is NO PERFECT TIME! You have to do what is best for you. When you look back, you realize that there is really no perfect time to do the perfect thing. You will just have to make time for what is important to you. But if I do have some recommendations, I will say…
- Do not be visibly pregnant in your fourth year during residency interviews. As much as I hate to say this, I do believe that it may have an effect on if residency programs would choose you or not. This is especially true for those programs that are not exactly very family-friendly and extremely competitive.
- Try not to be pregnant in your third year of residency if you will be looking for a job right after. This does not carry as much weight as being pregnant during residency interviews, but you may still find similar types of challenges when interviewing for jobs etc.
Q5. What would you consider important for maintaining an appropriate work-life balance?
Taking the time to do what you love. There is nothing that sucks the life out of someone as much as being miserable and sad because you are working continuously. Life is so short to take yourself too seriously. Take the time to do the things you love. Traveling, cooking, serving the community etc. whatever it is, make sure it is incorporated into your lifestyle. It will make for an overall happy human being and physician.
Q6. Have you ever faced any prejudice or discrimination being a woman Podiatrist, in practice or training?
Certainly! As a woman, particularly a woman of color, I find myself to be the least represented in the profession. People are mostly careful to not be outwardly prejudiced or discriminatory, but you still feel it a few times. My response to that is to work as hard as I can, be as smart as I can, and just believe in myself. I made the decision that their opinion has nothing to do with me. As long as I am providing the most up to date care and working just as hard, if not harder than my peers, then I leave the rest of the universe to take care of.
Q7. What would you consider the biggest challenge being a woman in the profession?
I believe the biggest challenge is the decision to start a family. The next is this decision to maintain a family. It is not easy for women. We have to be wives and mothers. Motherhood is quite challenging and could leave you drained. Motherhood and business ownership is even worse! You definitely have to have a very solid support system (spouse, family members, nannies or babysitters etc), or else you could find yourself failing at one or the other. In residency, someone once told me “you cannot be a good resident and a good mother!”. At the time, I was taken aback and I took offense to it. Now I see where she may have been coming from. It is hard work to maintain a balance, or should I say, an integration, but it is totally doable. I think that as long as you are happy, at peace with the decisions, and not comparing yourself to others, you can totally live a fulfilled life as a married mother and business owner in medicine.
Q8. Describe a typical day in your life?
I wake up, get ready for work while my husband gets the kids ready. I make them breakfast, and I sit and talk with them as we have breakfast. I dropped him off at daycare. Then I proceed about my day. That could involve either rounding at the hospital, performing surgery, going to the nursing home, or clinic day in the office.
On a full clinic day, I am usually in the clinic all day seeing patients and performing minor procedures. On my surgery days, I try not to have clinic so I do not run late and keep people waiting. However, sometimes, a patient from the hospital needs to be squeezed in. On nursing home days, I am basically there all day seeing tons of patients.
Typically, my husband picks the kids from daycare and takes them home. That leaves me time to complete my charts in the office, attend a marketing event or dinner, or perform any other rounding that I may have missed in the morning. I typically get home between 6:30 PM and 7:30 PM. I hang out with the kids, make dinner sometimes, finish up some charts or work assignments that I still have pending more work, and other personal business things I need to get done. Now it’s bedtime and we start again tomorrow.
Q9. What do you think the future holds for women in Podiatry?
I think there is a lot of room to grow. I recently joined a group on Facebook that is geared towards mothers in podiatry. If we can band together and support each other during the time of struggle, I think that there is definitely room for us to grow in this field and become active participants and members of the profession
There will be tough times and rough times, but having a support group of people who are like minded or mentors will help you make it through those tough times
Q10. What advice would you give to women that are coming into this field?
Have a tentative plan. Decide on the type of lifestyle that you want to have, work towards it, and pray about it. A journey of 1000 miles begins at one step. When you have a rough idea of what you would like your life to be, you can then start to plan little by little. For instance, if you want to work in a hospital group with flexible hours, start from day 1 of medical school to find out what you will need to obtain that goal 8-10 years from now. Surround yourself with female mentors who have done what you would like to do. Speak to them often, pick their brain, and find out about their decision-making guidelines. There will be tough times and rough times, but having a support group of people who are like-minded or mentors will help you make it through those tough times.
Interview by Brooke Smith
School: Temple University School of Podiatric Medicine