Seeing Through The Petty Politics And Recognizing Lasting Contributions

By Jeff Hall, Executive Editor

     In all walks of life, we see and encounter people with varying levels of ambition. Some folks strive to reach overarching goals and wind up taking on way more than they can handle in the pursuit of a greater good. They lead by example, they are always thinking of how to improve things and wind up investing a significant amount of time toward achieving fundamental changes. These folks are also not afraid to ruffle a few feathers along the way.      You also see folks I like to call “political climbers.” They are also smart, driven people but tend to be more motivated by self-interest than the greater good. While they initially impress with their talents, they are not above kissing some backsides in order to get to the proverbial next level. They seek out alliances with prominent people but quickly disregard these relationships once any potential career benefit from association has been exhausted. The climbers rarely stay in one place too long.      However, it is not always so easy to discern the difference between the political climbers and those who are motivated by the greater good.      Consider the following hypothetical situation. A prominent professor spends the better part of three decades at a university. He teaches and influences scores of students who either go on to prominent academic positions of their own or establish themselves quite nicely in the private sector. The professor also has a relentless commitment to finding a cure for cancer. It is a driving force of all of his research efforts.      However, this increasingly singular focus (albeit noble) has alienated some of his colleagues over the years. More recently, he has missed a meeting or two with university administrators.      Enter the promising “climber” at stage left. Shortly after completing her education, she works with a well-known researcher for two years but soon leaves for a teaching position at the university where the three-decade tenured professor works. The climber impresses with her technical skills, her fresh approach to research and yes, a singular focus. True to form, the climber also makes the rounds with the administrators and other prominent figures at the university.      In a remarkably short period of time, the climber is center stage and the longtime tenured professor, despite years of service and an unswerving commitment to cancer research, is suddenly on the outside looking in.      I know this is a bit of a departure for the editorial. Maybe the dog days of August are getting to me but it seems like I have an increasingly lower tolerance when I see any kind of petty politics these days.      When I was out at the APMA conference, I had heard that one major educational organization within podiatry discourages some of its higher profile members from lecturing at another conference. Maybe it’s me but this seems kind of petty and counterproductive. If a busy DPM wants to take the time to prepare a lecture and share his or her insights with fellow colleagues at multiple conferences, why should there be any restrictions on this?      Yet on the other hand, a number of leading educational institutions teamed up to co-sponsor the Gerard V. Yu, DPM Memorial Seminar at the end of August. Are there differences in philosophy between these institutions? Sure. However, they put any differences aside to honor the memory and lasting contributions of a leading educator and inspiration for many podiatrists. No petty politics here but a spirited collaboration and tribute to someone who made giving a lifetime habit.

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