Western University: Dean Satterfield

This is an interview with Dr. Satterfield, current Dean of Western University of Health Sciences College of Podiatric Medicine. Interview by Nicole Lagstein.

Q1. What made you choose Podiatry?

I met two podiatric physicians who did wound care while I was doing research for a news story. They had an office next door to that of an MD who was the subject of the investigative series I was writing. Long-story-short, the MD ended up in prison for what he had done. Long after the series was published, I kept going back to visit the podiatrists. I was fascinated by what they did. I ended up going back to college at night to pick up the credits I needed in science so I could apply and eventually I attended Podiatry school.

Q2. What got you interested in becoming a Dean of Students?


It was never my goal and I did not apply for the job, but when it was offered to me I thought it could be a way to help the students. I’m glad I did. It has been rewarding thus far.

Q3. How long have you been a Dean? What were you doing before this position?


I’ve been the dean for 18 months. Before this I was Associate Dean for Preclinical Curriculum and Outcomes Assessment.

Q4. What do you love about Western University so much?


I love Western University because we educate our students to be physicians whose specialty is podiatric medicine and surgery. I’m very proud of them for the excellence they each achieve.

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


We do not have “departments”! We do not believe a patient’s problems should  be taught segmentally. A patient does not come into the office with a label, saying “I have a biomechanical problem “ or “I have rheumatoid arthritis.”

They come in with a symptom.

We teach our students to be medical detectives. They don’t practice what I call “cookbook medicine” as if they have medial heel pain, so they must have plantar fasciitis so they automatically get XYZ treatment.

If you practice this way, you will miss diagnoses.

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

My goals in the next few years are to help our faculty to reach some of their milestones. We have some academic superstars, in my opinion, and I want to make sure they have the resources they need to be their best.

Q7. What advice do you have for a student about to enter classes at your school?


The advice I have for incoming WesternU students is to get to know your classmates, DPM and DO alike! You don’t just graduate with your degree but with a whole new community of friends that you will most likely have for the rest of your lives. They will be important in your life.

Q8. Share a favorite memory from when you were in Podiatric Medical School?

That’s hard! There are too many!

Let me just say that my closest group of friends and I still get together every year. We call it our Olympics and we, the Class of 91, compete with the Class of 92. Let’s just say the games we play are probably not recognizable to most sports fans but we have a blast. My classmates from 91 have won almost every year!

Q9. What attributes in your opinion make a Podiatric Medical Student successful?


The most successful students are involved with others, highly organized in their study, and they stay focused on what they are doing at the time.

They study hard and they play hard.

Q10. What advice do you have for the didactic years? What advice do you have for the clinical years?

Advice for didactic years – everything I just said about what makes a successful student!

Advice for the clinical years – Be early, stay late, be the first to do the hard work and you will be the first they choose for surgery. Master one fact  every day. If it is a tough day, maybe it is something small like the dose for Vancomycin you should learn. If it is a slow day, make it something tougher, like upper motor neuron lesions. You won’t have to study for part two boards if you do that.

Q11. What advice do you have when choosing a residency?

Advice for choosing a residency. Aim high. Don’t aim for comfortable.

Remember that the skills you learn, the “tools in your toolbox,” are going to be how you earn your living. Make sure you have every one you can get.


Interview by Nicole Lagstein from Western University of Health Sciences College of Podiatric Medicine.