Hallux Magazine – Women in Podiatry: Research
Interview of Dr. Windy Cole, DPM,CWSP, by Priya Thakkar a current second year podiatry student at Scholl College of Podiatric Medicine Class of 2023
Q1.What led you to the field of podiatry and where did you complete your education?
I always knew I was scientifically minded and was interested in healthcare. My grandmother would interview us as children. She has a video of me, around four years old, of me saying I wanted to be a doctor when I grew up. I spoke with a resident in podiatry before applying and received all of the answers to the questions I had regarding the field. I only applied to Kent State University College of Podiatric Medicine and enjoyed my time in podiatry school. I knew I had made the right choice. I completed a two year surgical residency program after graduation.
Q2.What does a typical day look like for you?
I work at the Kent State University College of Podiatric Medicine (KSUCPM) Wound Care Research Center two days a week. My research clinic is located at the Cleveland Foot and Ankle Center Midtown. This is where our third and fourth year students perform clinical rotations. The other three days, I treat patients at a wound care center that is part of University Hospitals of Cleveland.
Q3.What led you to getting involved in research?
I have been in practice for twenty years. For the first ten years I ran two private practice offices. Over time, I started to gravitate towards wound care. All wounds have different personalities and they are not always one size fits all. You have to be an investigator and figure out what pathology is causing these wounds to be chronic and non-healing. I took an active role as Associate Medical Director at a wound care center and through this practice I become more involved in research. I started working at a Cleveland Clinic wound center and began participating in randomized clinical trials as an investigator and loved the idea of improving patient outcomes and bringing new technologies to the field. I never looked back after that.
About four years later, I went back to KSUCPM and realized they were not very involved in wound care education or research. I proposed that they add this to their curriculum by way of creating a wound care research department and they were very excited about it. Now our department is currently enrolling patients in two diabetic foot ulcer trials and a venous leg ulcer trial.
Q4.What steps did you take to become involved in research?
I transitioned as a wound care clinician in a busy wound care clinic as they began some research projects. I learned so much about research from my team and it was a bit like trial by fire. I started as a Sub-Investigator on studies and learned about IRB training, how to write a protocol, make a budget, and get CITI training for research. As I worked on more projects, I learned more research skills like writing an informed consent and completing case report forms. With each different project, I became more active in the process and learned to do these projects over time to become the primary investigator.
Q5.What areas do you believe are up and coming in research of podiatric medicine?
We are the diabetic foot specialists and the diabetic epidemic is increasing in number and the patients are younger and even sicker than before. Due to this, wound care is an up and coming field and so is diabetic foot care. Preventative medicine and remote patient monitoring are also in the future of medicine.
Q6.Can you tell us about some of the current research projects you are involved in?
We have three trials ongoing at KSUCPM. One of them is a trial on venous leg ulcers. We are looking at electroceutical dressing which has zinc and silver ions in them. When they are wet they conduct electric currents which eliminates bacteria and accelerates healing. Another trial we are working on is comparing offloading and wound healing in a total contact cast versus a unique lockable cast boot. The standard of care is to use the total contact cast, however, we often see patients fail to heal because they do not wear the removable cast boots as directed. This boot has a locking mechanism so that way a home health nurse or a family member can unlock it and change the bandage and then lock the boot back up. We are investigating if the new boot changes the speed of wound healing as compared to offloading with a TCC. We also are investigating the use of a new amniotic tissue graft in patients with DFUs.
Q7.How does research affect your practice?
I get to play with new technologies and therapies at the research clinic and use them at the wound care center when they are available for patient use. I like to use innovative ways to help patients that may have had non-healing wounds for many years or have been treated at different wound care facilities and have failed to heal using their other standard of care treatments.
Q8.How did you learn to balance social life to family life and work?
You need to focus as a student and give your studies your full attention. I loved podiatry school and felt like it was the right fit for me. I met a group of students who I liked to study with and we had an enjoyable time together. Everyone struggles with work-life balance but you have to find what your niche is. Focus on one area because if you try to do too much you will not do anything well. I left private practice behind because it was not for me and now I write my own script and practicing wound care is what really fuels me.
Q9.Do you have any advice for women in podiatry school?
If you love what you do you will never work a day in your life. I was drawn to podiatry because of the wide variation of skills we possess including surgery, palliative care, wound care and sports medicine. You have to find your niche and what fulfills you. Just follow your heart and the rest will fall into place.
Interview by Priya Thakkar
Scholl College of Podiatric Medicine, Class of 2023