I was at an educational dinner recently and I realized I was the only podiatrist in a room of vascular, general surgery and plastic surgeons. Afterward, I spoke privately with the lecturer, a well known vascular surgeon, from the Northwest who has educated many podiatry residents and fellows over the years. We have been on several programs together over the years and I felt comfortable talking frankly with him.
I noticed that although he emphasized “multidisciplinary wound care” throughout his lecture, he never once mentioned the word “podiatrist” in this room of MDs. He quoted a great deal of literature from many of our colleagues including David Armstrong, DPM, PhD, Larry Lavery, DPM, Amol Saxena, DPM, and others. However, instead of saying, “Leading podiatric physician David Armstrong” or “Podiatry researcher Amol Saxena,” he would say, “Dr. Armstrong …”
During our conversation after the lecture, he brought up an interesting point about MDs’ attitudes about podiatry. The vascular surgeon said the problem with medical doctors’ attitudes about podiatry is the only thing they know about it is where podiatry came from. They do not know where podiatry is now.
I countered with what he thought was a somewhat controversial message. You may too. I told him that when MDs or DOs do not give us proper respect and a place at the table where we belong, I believe it is often because we have not done our job in educating them about what our training and skills are today.
He was surprised. He noted that he recently had a postgraduate trainee, who claimed that the MDs at his hospital were “persecuting” him.
It can feel like that sometimes. We have all been there. Perhaps we have been denied full privileges, denied the right to head up a hospital committee or have been bumped from the OR schedule for an MD’s “more important” case. Whatever the issue, there has been some slight that each of us has endured. Guess what? The MDs have endured them too. A family practice doctor may have experienced a slight from an internist and an internist has experienced it from a gastroenterologist.
Putting someone else down is a practice in insecurity. Educating someone about your training and the positive effect you have on patients can help turn around old prejudices. Remember that it was little more than a century ago that MDs served an apprenticeship in order to practice. As podiatrists, we are on a much faster track in terms of the development of our formal education and advanced residency/fellowship training.
Be excited. Go out and tell your medical colleagues about your profession. It is our responsibility to let others know, not theirs to simply know it.