Barry University: Dean Robert Snyder

Interview with Interim Dean Dr. Robert Snyder- Barry University School of Podiatric Medicine by Marika Jackson PMS-4

Q1.What made you choose Podiatry? Can you briefly share your medical journey?

Podiatry is a branch of medicine with significant variation. I realized as a student that I could pursue many professional endeavors. Although I had interest in all aspects of Podiatric medicine and surgery, I was keenly attracted to wound management and limb preservation. Over time, wound care become my niche.

After graduating from New York College of Podiatric Medicine, I began residency at Jewish Memorial Hospital, in New York City. I was lucky enough to garner a second-year residency in Missouri which afforded me the opportunity to ultimately commence private practice with the skills required to function at a high level, utilizing current surgical techniques and medical interventions. Over time, I observed an unmet medical need for well-trained wound management specialists, especially in patients with diabetes and decided to continue my education towards specialization in this area. After many years of running a successful private practice, I sold my office and pondered various pathways and opportunities to foster my education. At the time there were no official Fellowships in this field of medicine, so I created my own “mini-fellowship”. This entailed utilizing the resources gleaned from the sale of my practice to attend meetings and network with iconic figures in the space; what better place to utilize those resources than to invest in additional education. If I met a potential mentor, I would ask to visit them in their clinical or academic settings; no one refused. The year was transformative and change my life. I went on to earn a master’s degree in Wound Healing and Tissue Science from the University of Wales College of Medicine, UK. and I began seeking mentorship in clinical research. I have been involved in clinical research and cutting-edge therapies relating to wound management for 27 years and have been Principal Investigator or Lead PI on more than 65 randomized-controlled studies. This has garnered over 165 peer-reviewed and trade journal article and numerous speaking engagements both nationally and globally. I am Associate Editor for Wound Management and Limb Preservation for JAPMA and serve on many Editorial Advisory Boards. My expertise was further enhanced through consultancy with pharmaceutical companies. After years in the field, I served as Chief Medical Officer for Systagenix for 5 years which ultimately led me to academia.  I have also served as President of two major wound healing societies and have been honored with several awards for excellence in wound management and clinical research. I was recently inducted as Faculty Fellow Podiatric Medicine, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons (Glasgow).

Realizing the need to understand the business of medicine as we move from a fee-for -service to a value-based I completed an MBA with a concentration in Health Care for The George Washington University. Today I am Professor of Podiatric Medicine and Director of Clinical Research at Barry University School of Podiatric Medicine and have recently been appointed Interim Dean. I have been employed by Barry University for 10 years.

As you can see, my professional experience in Podiatry has been varied and taken many interesting turns. I am proud to have played a role in studying and helping develop numerous products and algorithms that aided in saving limbs and lives. Philosophically I am a life-long learner. In my zeal to continue improving my knowledge and skill I am currently enrolled in Global Clinical Scholars Research Training at Harvard Medical School.

Q2.What led to your decision to become the Dean of Students here at Barry University School of Podiatric Medicine?

I wanted to make a difference in the lives of students and the patients they treat while leaving a legacy. One goal is to keep our profession flourishing and sustainable. Schools and Colleges of Podiatric Medicine help shape the profession and I want to contribute to this endeavor in some meaningful way. I want to engage students, faculty and alumni in the process and recognize them for their accomplishments. Philanthropy represents another area that could be fostered through my years of networking. Having owned several successful practices and dedicating a large part of my career to clinical research, mentoring and academia, I am ready to take a ‘deeper dive’ and utilize my skill sets collaboratively to help ensure the future of Podiatric medicine through this important administrative roll.

Q3.What were you doing before this position?

I was in private practice for 32 years specializing in the treatment of non-healing wounds. I have been doing clinical research for 27 years and have been a Professor at Barry University for about 10 years now. Through the Paul and Margaret Brand Research Institute, I have brought over 35 randomized-controlled trials to the university, mentored students and residents in this field. In addition, I have published over 25 manuscripts and several book chapters including both students and post-docs.

Q4.What do you love about Barry University School of Podiatric Medicine and the Miami, FL area?

 I have lived in South Florida for the past 40 years. Not only is the weather amazing but it is also a great area to raise a family. Barry University has a great diversity of podiatric scholars and expertise in many areas including  sports medicine, radiology, wound  management and limb preservation. I believe the Pre-clinical and clinical faculty are second to none. This dynamic creates a ‘center of excellence’ and fosters the development of students to transition to residency training. Barry’s mission statement embraces life-long learning, philanthropy and outreach to underserved communities; attributes I have embraced throughout my entire professional career.

Q5.What is the key to an effective Podiatric Medical School?

Dedicated and well-educated faculty is paramount. Appropriate technology to help with fostering skills of students is also key. We have these aspects here at Barry University.

Q6.What are your plans or goals for the coming years?

Being proactive and having open dialogue with the student body and the leadership of each class on a regular basis remains a key initiative. Making sure students and faculty are recognized for their good work is also paramount.  I want to start a newsletter to display our talents here at Barry with the rest of the nation. I want to build more of an alumni presence and foster involvement through lectures, discussions, literature reviews and/or mentoring. I plan on increasing fundraising for the University as well.

Admissions remains the centerpiece of any medical school and I plan to create additional collaborative pathways to ensure we continue moving in a positive and sustainable direction. Another goal is to increase research and publications by both faculty and students. I endeavor to ensure that every student ‘touches’ research in some fashion. There remains a paucity of podiatric researchers and future Podiatric physician scientists could help fill this important and unmet medical need.  Increasing mentorship opportunity for students is also on the top of my list. This is vital in a student’s ability to succeed. My mentors were and continue to be extremely instrumental in both my professional and personal life.

Q7.What advice do you have for current students and incoming students entering Barry University School of Podiatric Medicine?

Work hard, be responsible and diligent. Be a lifelong learner and seek mentorship. Constantly keep reading and learning. Keep involved in a society or an organization that exposes you to more knowledge and fosters service to the profession. Remember; learning just begins when a student graduates from a medical program. It is a life-long process.

Q8.What is your vision for the nationwide Podiatric community? Where do you see our profession of Podiatry progress to in the next 10 years?

I see Podiatry being more assimilated into the medical mainstream. Podiatry schools will likely become integrated with Osteopathic and Allopathic institutions. Parity will be incremental but should evolve over time.  My prayer is that we are seen as a “critical need” in medicine. This has clearly been elucidated by the 10-fold increase in amputations and emergent infections since the pandemic; largely because patients were fearful to seek podiatric medical care.

With three-year residencies, fellowships, and more educational opportunities while in podiatry school I believe this will become a reality. I envision universality in scope of practice from state to state; thus, allowing the well-educated podiatric physician to practice within his/her capabilities unimpeded.

In the future, a great deal of our efforts in Podiatry will be focused on the diabetic foot and wound management. We must be prepared for these challenges.

Q9.What are a few things that you have done to give back to the students you serve?

In October of this year, I donated my private practice in Tamarac, Florida to Barry University School of Podiatric Medicine. This has allowed for more clinical exposure and  a nurturing learning environment for our students.

I also offer two scholarships every year to 4th year graduating Barry University of Podiatric Medical students: Dr. Brian Sigal and Dr. David Eisenbud Memorial Scholarships. These scholarships are in the honor of two medical professionals who were colleague’s, partners and mentors. They exemplified excellence in their fields and exhibited high moral and ethical character.

Interview by Marika Jackson PMS-4