Sharing Your Podiatric Knowledge: Why Those Who Can Should Teach

Patrick DeHeer DPM FACFAS

Knowledge is a gift that we must share and pass on. When you keep it to yourself, you diminish the power of knowledge. Without sharing knowledge, especially knowledge that derives its source from experience, a society, including the profession of podiatric medicine, is cheated.

I currently have the privilege of working with two different residency programs comprised of nine residents. I have taught both residents and students throughout my 22-year career and it has made me a better podiatric physician. The natural give and take that occurs with young, eager minds will challenge you and keep you on your toes professionally. However, as a teacher, you cannot simply take without giving in return. When you do not share your knowledge and experience with those under your tutelage, you are weakening the entire profession.

Physicians should not think of residents and students as slave laborers, doing the grunt work that none of us wants to do. When you agree to become involved with a residency program, you are undertaking a great responsibility. You also potentially provide a greater good for the profession. You never know what budding leader and professional all-star lies around the corner.

There are many facets to teaching in the medical field. Often we decide these by the type of involvement you have in the residency program. In one of the resident programs that I work with, the residents primarily accompany me in surgery and occasionally spend time in my office. In the other program, I take emergency room and in-patient calls approximately one week per month at a very large hospital while working with the residents.

I am amazed when the residents tell me that several of the attending physicians they work with do not allow them to do much in the operating room. Residents are not our personal scrub technicians. Yes, they must learn to be good assistants before they can be good surgeons. However, to be a good surgeon, one must be allowed to operate under direct supervision with patient instruction in a positive learning experience. I have always felt I could correct anything that could go wrong that a resident might do so I have never had the fear of potential intraoperative errors. The fact of the matter is with careful observation and instruction, problems should occur no more frequently than when you do your own surgery.

There are residents who have better natural abilities than others and there are residents who are better prepared than others. However, expecting residents to learn while they are simply doing your grunt work is wrong. Not sharing your knowledge is wrong.

I think residents and students need to be challenged in a fair manner that promotes growth and confidence. Quiz them with the right intent, not out of arrogance, malice or superiority. Instead, challenge them out of the desire to help the young doctors or doctors-in-training to become the best they can.

If you are involved with a residency program, take it seriously and understand your responsibility as a teacher. Realize your strengths and weaknesses as a teacher. One thing that I need to do better is to share my thought process aloud during cases and with patient care. I need to do a better job of explaining why I am doing what I am doing. I want all of my children to be more successful and have better careers in whatever path they choose. You should want the same for your professional children. Put your ego aside and teach.

The reward of seeing a young mind blossom is worth the effort it takes to assist the blossoming mind. If you do not work with residents, you should. If there is no program around you, consider starting a program by contacting the American Podiatric Medical Association ( ). Finally, please consider donating to the podiatric scholarship fund ( ). The students and prospective students are the future. Giving back to our profession is a responsibility we all have.

Best wishes and stay diligent.

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