Why podiatry? What advice would you give an undergraduate student interested in this profession?
Growing up, I always knew I wanted to be a doctor, but I did not know what in specialty suited me. Shadowing in the emergency and trauma department was thrilling, but it lacked the patient relationship I desired. Shadowing a pediatric orthopedic surgeon was an amazing experience, but I was hesitant on being confined to the operating room. On the other hand, shadowing a podiatrist was life-changing; it was my calling. The experience showed me how podiatrist cultivates meaningful relationships with their patients. On the day of shadowing, the podiatrist had a full schedule, ranging from fracture assessments to diabetic nail care. Aside from the new patients, he knew all of the others. He would ask how their spouse and children were, how their vacation was, or how their most recent family event went. That is exactly how I want to be as a doctor. Shadowing allowed me to witness first-hand how a podiatrist can truly impact their patient’s life, not only by treating their lower extremity problems but by caring about the patient as a whole.
I personally believe that podiatry is a hidden gem in medicine. Being a podiatrist allows one the opportunity to treat patients, while also building lasting relationships with them over time. There are a myriad of career choices that one gets to make as a podiatrist—the option to focus on a sub-specialty, spend one’s time in a clinic or hospital, as well as being part of a medical group. Some of the sub-specialties include sports medicine, wound care, pediatrics, trauma, and orthopedic surgery; however, one could also practice general podiatry and see a wide range of patients. An unintended bonus is maintaining standard office hours, so it’s feasible to be a doctor, enjoy family time, and still have time for hobbies.
After officially finishing my first year of podiatry school, one of my favorite experiences thus far was performing the Objective Structured Clinical Exams (OSCEs). I was able to act as the doctor and utilize the various exams and techniques that I learned in my first-year podiatry classes. I was also given the opportunity to apply my skills to work by volunteering at the Special Olympics. As my most rewarding experience to date, I was able to conduct foot exams on the Special Olympics athletes. This was my first ‘real world’ experience as a podiatric medical student. Interacting with the athletes was an amazing experience, as I was able to hone my examining techniques while building relationships with the patients… It was such a great opportunity that gave me a glimpse of the bright future as a podiatrist. Towards the end of my first year, I volunteered at the Midwestern University Central Arizona Shelter Services Clinic, where podiatry students treat the homeless. It was my time to take the duties as a physician, then report my findings to the attending physician. My patient was a young man with one of the most infected toes I have ever seen. He repeatedly told me that he just wanted it amputated because of the unbearable pain. I asked about the duration of his infections and he responded, “more than six months, I don’t know what to do.” It was unbelievable to me that this man had been dealing with his injury for so long. While doing the necessary foot exams, I learned several things about him: his son was his pride and joy, he would be moving into an apartment soon, and that he had always aspired to be a doctor. He wished that he could have helped people in need instead of, “getting mixed up with the wrong crowd”. At that point, I realized that, even as a first-year podiatry student, I can make a difference. Podiatry school has been amazing, it has been exactly what I was looking for in a profession.
Arizona College of Podiatric Medicine, Class of 2023