Women Leaders: Dr. Schwartz

Interview with Erika Schwartz, DPM
By Marika Jackson, Barry University School of Podiatric Medicine Class of 2021.

  1. What led you to Podiatry? Can you share a little about your journey in medicine?
    My interest in podiatry was sparked by my mother’s relationship with her own podiatrist. For as long as I knew, he had been an integral part of her care team. She always felt better after seeing him and respected him greatly.
  2. What podiatric medical school and residency did you attend?
    I graduated from Temple University School of Podiatric Medicine and completed my residency training at Washington Hospital Center in Washington DC (now the Medstar Georgetown Washington Hospital Center program).
  3. What is your current job title and what leadership positions do you hold?
    I am in private practice with Foot & Ankle Specialists of the Mid Atlantic. I am working in the Chevy Chase location and a Washington D.C. location. I am a Past President and the current Scientific Chair for the American Association for Women Podiatrists. I am on the Board of Trustees of the Maryland Podiatric Medical Association.
  4. What type of work setting is your practice (private practice, hospital, etc)?
    I spend most of my time now in a private office setting and perform most of my surgery in an outpatient surgical center setting. Earlier in my career, before my second child was born, I was very involved in resident education, working with the podiatric surgical residency, and taking call at Medstar Washington Hospital Center in Washington DC.
  5. Can you give insight as to how you balance work, marriage, children, self-time and leadership roles?
    The balance between work, marriage, children, self-time and leadership roles has evolved for me as my kids have gotten older. I think the key is to communicate and accept help. For me, this has been a juggle between the schedules of my husband and myself. For others, this could involve a nanny, family, friends, etc.
  6. How important is it to you to have advocacy for women in podiatry?
    I believe that advocacy for women in podiatry both by other women and by men is critical. I am reminded of one of the attendings who I worked with during my residency training. Harold Glickman became APMA President while I was a 3rd year resident. He not only spoke about the need to have more women in leadership and encouraged women to get involved, but at a time when there had not yet been a female APMA President, he was thrilled to have the first one follow after him. He was a proud member of the American Association for Women Podiatrists and felt that all men should join in support of their female colleagues. His advocacy for women in podiatry has always impressed me since he appreciated how this would make the profession better for everyone.
  7. Do you think there are still biases against females within the field?
    I do believe there are still biases against females within the field. In speaking with female students applying for residency this year, I learned that questions were asked about how the student would be able to handle the rigors of residency training while also being a mother. This is not a question asked of the male students with children.
  8. As a leader in medicine, what positive changes have you seen in our field related to female podiatrist? What areas do you see are still needing improvement?
    Over the almost 20 years since I finished podiatry school, I have witnessed many positive changes in our field related to the female podiatrist. There are now more women in leadership positions throughout podiatric organizations, APMA and their state components, and podiatric education institutions. There is potential to include even more women in these leadership roles, but I believe more progress may depend on flexibility. There have been situations where I felt I could not commit to playing a role because I knew meetings would be when I would be doing something with my children. For the younger mother, this could be a bedtime routine. For me, this might be driving to field hockey or swim practice. When I actually expressed this as a limitation, there many times the men around me would adjust the schedule so that I could participate. It took me feeling comfortable saying what I needed, and them caring to have more representation in the leadership structure.
  9. Have you noticed any competition between women in the field?
    I personally have not noticed competition between women in the field that has appeared linked to gender.
  10. Has support and comradery from other women in podiatry aided in your journey? If so, can you give an example?
    Support and comradery from other women in podiatry has greatly aided in my journey. As soon as I finished residency, I became involved with AAWP. Jane Andersen, who was a Past President of AAWP asked me if I wanted to, and I quickly met a network of women who had already been where I was. From that moment on, the AAWP community was my first place to go with questions and for advice from disability insurance to employment contracts. Recently, I have really enjoyed the Podiatric Physicians Mom Group on Facebook. Especially during the pandemic, this group has provided a wonderful connection and support across the country.
  11. For young women in medicine, how do you think they can get into more leadership roles within podiatry?
    I think the opportunities to get more involved and move into leadership roles are everywhere in podiatry. It’s hard to imagine any organization turning down a volunteer to work on a project. If you have an interest and take initiative, my experience has been that groups in our community are welcoming. I can say for certain that if any young women reading this would like to get more involved with the American Association for Women Podiatrists, a role will be found for them.
  12. What advice would you give to a current female podiatric student as well as undergraduate students interested in podiatry?
    My advice to a current female podiatric student or an undergraduate student interested in podiatry would be to use caution when anyone tells you that this is a particularly good profession for you because you are a woman. I have heard it said to prospective female students that podiatry will allow you to have time with your children, easily balance your work with life, and make a great living working part time. In my mind, this is not reality. Anything that sounds that easy is likely not true. Regardless of gender, a prospective student should spend time shadowing practitioners to see what life is really like in an office or hospital setting. If you like what you see, go for it!

I think the opportunities to get more involved and move into leadership roles are everywhere in podiatry.


Interview with Dr. Erika Schwartz, DPM
By Marika Jackson, Barry University School of Podiatric Medicine Class of 2021.