Dr. Stephanie Wu DPM, MSc, FACFAS is the current Dean for William M. Scholl College of Podiatric Medicine at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science.
Q1. How long have you been the dean and what is your background with Scholl College?
I have been with the Dr. Willian M. Scholl College of Podiatric Medicine at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science since 2004, and I was appointed dean in August of 2019. I first came to Scholl College as a research fellow after my residency, and I became very involved in the development of the research programs here. I’ve greatly enjoyed contributing to the academy, and though I am currently dean, I am still an active professor in the Department of Podiatric Surgery and Applied Biomechanics, as well as professor in the Center of Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine, and interim associate dean of research at Scholl College.
Q2. Why did you get interested in podiatry?
My career in podiatric medicine has a close familial connection. When my sister was preparing for her MCAT exam, she asked me to prepare for the MCAT with her as a way of supporting her. I was already interested in health care, but after taking the MCAT and selecting schools to send my scores to, I noticed podiatry schools on the list. I had some level of exposure to podiatry prior to the exam, and because my experiences with the profession had been positive ones, I decided to send my scores to a podiatry school after the exam. The school later contacted me about starting a career in podiatric medicine, and the rest is history. Although this may seem like a non-traditional journey, I used this opportunity to learn more about podiatric medicine and decided to pursue it as my long-term career.
Q3.What made you interested in becoming a Dean of Scholl College?
I have been with Scholl College since 2004 and have worked with and taught students in both the clinical setting as well as through the research program for multiple years. When I learned about the position, I saw it as a way to give back to Scholl College, since Rosalind Franklin University’s commitment to leadership development has been such a huge part of my growth. I want to be a role model for females and underrepresented students and be a part of training the future leaders of podiatric medicine.
Q4. What do you love about Scholl so much?
I feel that I grew with Scholl College, and it has given me so many opportunities. I am proud of the research program that I have built over the years at Scholl College, which includes work with scientists in the Center for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine on cell-based therapies promoting diabetic wound healing. In 2011, I was named director of RFU’s innovative Center for Lower Extremity Ambulatory Research (CLEAR), where I oversee faculty engaged in groundbreaking work on the treatment and prevention of lower extremity complications associated with diabetes. Before I came to Scholl College, they did not have formalized research programs, and I helped establish and advance these programs over the years. For example, under my leadership, Scholl College became the first and only podiatric medical school in the nation to be awarded a National Institutes of Health T35 research training grant. These funds are used for the college’s Summer Research Program, which is designed to increase the number of future podiatric physicians who engage in biomedical research. I feel that I owe everything I am to Scholl. I really love the people — everyone is very warm and helpful, and this aids them in becoming the best that they can be.
Q5. What is the key to an effective department in your Podiatric Medical School?
I believe that the key to an effective department is understanding the student’s educational needs and evaluating how well we are teaching the students. The students should be taught in a way they learn best, and over time, students’ learning methods are evolving. As technology advances, I believe that the college should implement these various learning methods to best serve the students. I like to constantly improve this factor, because when it comes to faculty, staff and administrators, I believe that we are here to educate future podiatric physicians to prepare them for residency training. I want to ensure we are doing a good job of that.
Q6. What are your plans or goals for the coming years?
My plan is to continue to provide the leadership, resources, and support needed to further curriculum innovation, since innovation is an enduring component of the RFU mission and one that has been put into action during the pandemic. For example, we would like to make telemedicine a part of the curriculum so the students are prepared and accustomed to utilizing this platform when treating patients. We would like to increase exposure and training regarding health disparities and social determinants of health, which are responsible for the vast majority of chronic disease. It is also crucial to continue to modify and improve on the curriculum and delivery of material. These are complex concepts with real-life consequences on the future of health outcomes. We must balance the importance of science and medicine with the desire to teach it in an engaging and efficient way for students to best retain, understand and implement the information.
Q7. What advice do you have for a student about to enter classes at your school?
Prepare to work hard. There is a significant gap between undergraduate education and graduate level education as it pertains to studying commitment and degree of difficulty. Students need to make sure they are in it because they are passionate about this field and they love the impact they can have. It is hard work and a lot of information to retain and then put into practice, but it’s worth it. In order to help patients and become exemplary podiatric physicians, students need to make sure they are dedicated to the end goal and focused on it. I also advise our students to enjoy the process. I admit that It’s hard being a student, but thinking back, it was such a memorable experience and I look back on it fondly. Day-to-day interactions with classmates will lead to lifelong friendships and a strong network of Scholl College alumni.
Interview by Priya Thakkar from William M. Scholl College of Podiatric Medicine at Rosalind franklin University