Remembering the 1970’s Running Craze
with Douglas H Richie DPM
Roberto De Los Santos
Education: California College of Podiatric Medicine
Known for: Creator of Richie Brace & other patents, International Speaker
If you travel south of Los Angeles, near the beautiful coast of the California beaches, you will find the offices of Dr. Douglas Hooton Richie, Jr. I waited in his lobby nervously, ready to be called. I had only met him once before and he was one of my earliest podiatrists to interview for my short stories. “The doctor is ready to see you,” said the front clerk lady. As I entered through the door I quickly froze in place, at the end of the hallway with a big smile was Dr. Richie. “Student doctor De Los Santos, am I right? Have a seat in my office!”, he said. I was a little star struck, a busy man of his caliber knew my name and was ready to great me.
Dr. Douglas Richie or “Doug” Richie is a man of wisdom, intellectual maturity, and has an ability to grab your attention with his words. I was not expecting to hear so many rich stories, and life lessons from him in one sitting. In the one-and-a-half-hour interview, I took with me more history and advise that had ever been presented to me. We talked about the time he was in school, living in the 1970’s running fad, and up until now, becoming an international podiatry guest speaker.
I. Early Life
Doug Richie was born and raised in Long Beach, California. His parents had a house right in front of the water, so he grew up living a life on the beach.
“My favorite spot is the beach. I grew up on the beach and still like going to this day”
Doug’s first job was being a cook in the dorm cafeteria for Cal State Long Beach. Later on, in high school, he became an ocean lifeguard for the city of Long Beach during the summers. In the winters, Doug was a waiter in a well-known local steakhouse called The Calf and Cleaver (now closed).
Although he was busy holding different jobs, his passion for being in the medical field started out early in high school. Doug originally wanted to be an athletic trainer. He would always see trainers at football games at Cal State or at Lakers basketball games. At the time, some trainers only worked part-time, but others were specifically titled Physical Therapists (PT) – this was Doug’s main interested, so he decided to apply. After graduating with his Bachelor of Science Degree in Zoology from California State University, Long Beach in 1976, Doug was accepted into the rigorous PT program at Cal State Long Beach and began taking classes in the fall.
II. Changing Career Paths
Doug was in route to pursue his dream job, however, once he started, he realized that this was not what he wanted to do. Instead, he decided to drop out of the program. He was still young so he set his eyes to attend medical school. To do that, he had to go back to undergraduate school and re-take biology, physics, and chemistry to get accepted. He was young and determined. For him, taking an extra year to re-take science classes was worth it.
At the same time while re-taking classes, Doug got a job at Long Beach Memorial Hospital as an orderly in the operating room. One night, he met an individual who was working as a surgical technician that had just finished his first year at California College of Podiatric Medicine (CCPM). Doug remembers that this individual could not stop raving about podiatry – a specific field of medicine that Doug had never heard of before. After much back and forth discussion, the surgical-tech referred him to a well-known sports medicine podiatrist, Dr. John Pagliano, to shadow him and learn about the field.
Doug Richie decided to go visit Dr. John Pagliano. He sat in the waiting room along with his other patients and was star struck. This clinic would receive local well-known runners, star football player, and even Tommy John, the pitcher for the Dodgers. He couldn’t believe the celebrities at this office.
He enjoyed his time at Dr. Pagliano’s clinic so much that he decided to investigate even more. He spent more time in his clinic, interviewed another podiatrist, and visited the schools. During this time, there were only four (4) schools to choose from: San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York. After visiting the podiatry school in northern California, he was sold. He told his wife to pack his bags because they were moving to San Francisco.
“[Podiatry] is sports medicine in a great practice setting, lower stress, and great relationship with patients. This is great, I loved it.”
III. San Francisco in the 70’s
The year was 1976, Steve Jobs established Apple Computers, Jimmy Carter won the presidency, the movie “Rocky” was released, and “Silly Love Songs” by Wings was on all the tunes that summer. Douglas lived right across from Golden Gate Park, near the Parnassus Heights area. He and his wife managed an apartment building near Geary Street, so living was somewhat affordable. He recalls the great atmosphere of people, bars, and cafes in the surrounding area. Often, he would meet up with classmates near Union Street in Pacific Heights for a night out, this was the place to be for enjoying cool bars and live entertainment at the time. Not to mention the 70’s was still part of the hippie era, there was still a lot of Flower Childs in San Francisco roaming around.
From 1976-1980 he attended CCPM. Doug began classes in the fall, with his class of 80 peers – considered small since the previous classes had 100 students each. Attending classes at CCPM during this time was considered the Golden Era of biomechanics. They had just rebuilt the schools about two years ago, so all the facilities and biomechanics lab seemed fresh and new. His teachers included Dr. Joel Clark, a retired Dr. Root, Dr. John Weed, and Dr. Zier. Associated well-known biomechanics teachers included Drs. Steve Sabotenick, Harry Hlavac, and Thomas Sgarlato – one of the founders of biomechanics. Dr. Sgarlatto wrote Compendium of Podiatric Biomechanics and is considered a world-renowned podiatrist for innovations in medical implant technology, now used in other surgical fields. This all-star group of professors is what influenced Dr. Richie to become the podiatrists he is today.
“I spent a lot of time hanging out in the library, doing extra rotations, and speaking with mentors, I didn’t get any extra credit out of it but it definitely made me better.”
San Jose and San Francisco in the 70s created some of the best Olympic runners. At the time, running was booming and podiatry was the doctor for them. Doug even participated in a few marathons himself, including San Francisco’s famous Bay to Breakers foot race. But how did this running craze start? Dr. Richie had this to remember:
“Frank Shorter [brought in] winning gold in the Munich Olympics in 1972. This started the running craze, no American had ever done that, won a marathon. Famous book [by] Jim Fixx called A Complete Book of Running came out. Running became a craze, and at the center of it was San Francisco. And podiatrists were the gods to the runner. There was even a couple of celebrity podiatrists [in the bay area]. They would write articles in magazines, get quoted in the newspaper, and had thriving practices in the bay. They had standing room only when they came to talk at our school. Standing room only!”
Historically, previous runners had won the gold in the Olympic marathon, but Frank Shorter was the first to win it since 19081. His achievement is credited as the start of the running craze. In addition, in 1972 President Richard Nixon signed Title IX, allowing women for equal school athletic opportunities as men, permitting more women to compete in running2. Around the same time, The Complete Book of Running and Running and Being became best sellers, contributing to this running boom. Not to mention the power of the media; more and more families surrounded their televisions to watch live coverage of the Boston Marathon, New York Marathon, and Bay to Breakers.
IV. The Class of 1980
The class of 1980 is a memorable one; other colleagues of Dr. Richie included Dr. Jeff Paige – who later became dean of CCPM, and Chat Evens – the founding dean of Barry University. However, Dr. Richie’s favorite memory of this group is how much of a jokester the class was; you could always count on a day of laughter by just attending class.
“In the class, there were always characters. What was funny is that they were good impersonators, especially at impersonating the professor. Right before the teacher comes in, they would go up and imitate them. I never forget this, especially at the Senior Skit, done the week of graduation. It was done right before graduation so there was no fear of retribution from classmates impersonating professors.”
After graduating, Dr. Doug Richie moved back to southern California for residency and later establish a practice.
V. The Idea
The Richie brace was released in 1996 and took about one-year to get it all complete from start to finish. It has been sold in six countries: U.S., Australia, Canada, UK, Spain, and Portugal.
“I was always an entrepreneur, I always had some ideas for products. I had already worked as a consultant for some podiatry labs to help bring out new types of orthotics. So, I had it in my mind, I wanted to develop an ankle brace for an athlete to wear and prevent an ankle sprain. I saw a brace, very similar to this. I went to that company and they partnered with me because they had a patent, and it was a prefabricated brace. I said [to them], ‘I would like to make that brace custom, I would like to make the foot plate be like a foot orthotic’. They said ‘well we don’t know how to do that’ and I said ‘well I know how to do it.’ So, it took their design for the upper, and I worked with a couple labs to attach it to a custom foot orthotic. So, it was going to be a sports brace, but some podiatrists said ‘this was a great brace for posterior tibial tendon dysfunction, or that would be a great brace for drop foot’. And I said, ‘no that is not what I designed it for.’ Turns out that is what it worked on the best!”
To no surprise, Dr. Richie does get a lot of people that approach him to speak about their great ideas. They know of his patented idea, so they try to figure out the process of how to do it themselves. Here is what Dr. Richie had to say,
“I tell them, you have two choices; you can take this project, develop it yourself, pay your patent attorney, pay your patent, and then take it to a company to market it. [Next, you] find a manufacturer and the minute you do that, you surrender ownership. When you take a patent idea to a company who will take it over and develop it, manufacture it and sell it. The royalty payments you get for that are about 4-5%, that is all you get. When I tell podiatrists that they are shocked.”
VI. Present Day
A typical day for Dr. Doug Richie is seeing patients from 8am to 5pm, taking a long lunch, and scheduling a surgery or two during that time. He was the previous director for the Long Beach Memorial Hospital residency program and past JAFAS biomechanics editor for 12 years.
“I don’t try to say here late, I like to get home by dinner time. In the early years, I was a residency director, I used to love to take the call but it’s a big sacrifice, it takes its toll. If you like that thing do it while you are young.”
When Dr. Richie is not at work, he spends time relaxing at home with his family. He loves listening to all kinds of music: rock & roll, or jazz. His wife plays the violin, his son the cello, one daughter works in human resources, and his other daughter is an actress in NYU. If Dr. Richie isn’t in his bed, he is spending it outdoors. He enjoys playing golf, hiking, fishing, and winter skiing. He has been involved in contributing to podiatry for many years and somehow managed to make time for the people he loves. I asked him, “while trying to juggle many aspects of your life, what are some of the biggest challenges someone in your position would face?” Dr. Richie had this to say:
“Under family and work, it’s all about balance. Hopefully, you have a love for the science, a love for teaching, and love for your family. I loved going to conferences, lecturing, and meetings but [at the same time] you are away from the family, so you suffer. If you choose to become a residency director or contribute academically, you tend to interact with people who are doing the same thing and they give you helpful advice. You develop your own support network.”
Dr. Richie loves what he does. He continues to teach, speak, and give advice to the newer generation. He has been invited to speak in the UK, Canada, Spain, Singapore, and Australia. This has served him as a memorable experience, here is what he had to say:
“The most memorable are Singapore and Australia. I taught all his podiatrists for 40 hours in 7 days, it was a lot! And [I have been] invited to Australia three times. It’s really gratifying. They look at American podiatry as a base. It was a great learning experience, you can always learn from other people.”
When asked, what was the best advice a podiatrist gave you? Dr. Richie had this to quote:
“The best advice given to me was during our orientation at CCPM. It was Dave Mullens, he was also an attorney. Dave was a part-time teacher in school, he did a Dermatology fellowship in Stanford, younger in faculty, really [good] articulate lecturer. I remember Dr. Mullens say, ‘There is nothing better than being really good at something, and being really good at what you do. Podiatry allows you to be really good at what you do. This education will let you be really good so take advantage of it. You will be able to treat foot problems better than anybody else and there is nothing more satisfying.’ The trouble with podiatry is that they do not hold your hand, they give you the opportunity but you have to seek out and get the most out of it.”
Interview by Roberto De Los Santos on March 21, 2018. Published on June 19, 2018.
Photographs courtesy of Dr. Doug Richie’s personal collection, photos taken at interview by Roberto De Los Santos, and archive from CCPM’s 1976-1980 Calcaneus Yearbooks.
- “Athletics at the 1972 Munich Summer Games: Men’s Marathon”. sports-reference.com. Retrieved 19 June2018.
- “20 U.S. Code § 1681 – Sex”. Legal Information Institute. Retrieved 19 June 2018.
The following is an extension of the interview and it can be found in the Student Corner section of our website.
Douglas H Richie DPM, Creator of Richie Brace
By Roberto De Los Santos
What advice would you give to your younger self? Any advice to podiatry students? These are some of the questions we posed to well-known Podiatrists as part of our ongoing Q&A session.
Q. What advice would you give to your 21-year-old self?
A. Work on getting that balance early form your personal life and professional life. Remember to enjoy your life, there were years where I was obsessed with podiatry. It really happened when I was a resident, my program had a lot of attendees and each demanded something of you so I tried to please them. It was like a rat in a wheel, you have to stop to realize you have to take care of yourself first. Seek mentors, go the extra mile, read way beyond you are told to read and I absolutely did.
Q. What recommendations would you give to a student who is currently undecided in pursuing podiatry school?
A. First, you should ask yourself, do you want to go into medicine? The future of medicine is going to be different from when I was in school. When I was in school, my vision was private practice, to be in business for myself. That is not waiting for you now don’t think they can work for themselves. The personalization and quality of care might be diminished. The medical industry is changing, not just podiatry that what it was 30 years ago, not really a bad way just a different way.
Q. What message would you give to current podiatry students?
A. Don’t decide right now that wound care or sports medicine is not for you. In your residence learn every bit you can for every subspecialty, don’t stop it until you try it. You might end up in a practice where you need to be comfortable in everything. Don’t sell yourself short. Learn all of it because it may be a big plus for you “.
Q. What message do you give to your patients?
A. I can’t tell you how grateful I am even if it was just heel pain it affected my life. Sometimes it’s the simple things that make the big difference. I give this in my lectures, I say “my goal is to restore your mobility”, to them it’s like saying I will put 10 years into your life. They light up! It says you are committed to them. You have to stop and say “I get it, I am going to do my best to get you well”. Remember, these are your patients for life.
Q. How do you balance professional life and personal life?
A. Don’t take your work home, it’s important to have activities, hobbies, and interests with family and friends not related to podiatry. Your family must realize that you love what you do and you will have to spend time on it. They will support you in sacrificing time because it’s important for you. It’s a balance.
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