Given the holiday season, I thought I would dedicate this blog to giving thanks to those who have helped me in my professional life.
I graduated from the University of Arizona in Tucson in 1989. At that time, I thought I wanted to be a biochemist. I moved to Gaithersburg, Md., and started working for a company called Bethesda Research Laboratories. I worked in a manufacturing lab purifying DNA and enzymes, which were then sold to research institutions. It took about six months for me to realize the laboratory job was not for me.
I knew I had to go back to school but I was not sure what I was going to do. A cousin of mine introduced me to a podiatrist and he graciously agreed to let me shadow him to see if podiatry might be of interest as a career change.
I spent a few afternoons with David Goff, DPM, in Silver Spring, Md. I was immediately impressed with Dr. Goff as he was successful, proud of his profession, and very caring and respectful of his patients. This was my first introduction to podiatry as a profession. Frankly, prior to that meeting with Dr. Goff, I do not even know if I really understood what a podiatrist did. I really owe a lot to Dr. Goff for steering me into the profession. Tragically, Dr. Goff and three of his children were murdered in their home in 1995. I never did get to personally thank him for what he did for me. I do regret not thanking him while he was alive.
I think we all have special teachers and mentors who have positively influenced us in our professional careers. It is impossible to mention everybody but I want to highlight a few who really stand out.
I want to recognize Bruce Frankel, DPM, who prematurely passed away a few years ago. He was a Dean at the New York College of Podiatric Medicine (NYCPM) when I was a student. He always made me feel encouraged and optimistic about being in podiatry school. He always made the future look bright when others were passing out doom and gloom.
I want to thank Louis Jimenez, DPM, for believing in me during my interview for the Northlake Residency in Tucker, Ga. I think he saw a shy kid from New Jersey who did well in school and had a desire to teach. Once the residency started, I quickly learned the ropes and like everyone else, I took some hard knocks from time to time. Alan Banks, DPM, was my residency director. He demanded professionalism and inspired me to work hard and stay on top of my game.
There is no doubt that John Ruch, DPM, played a major role in my training as well. He is a master surgeon with golden hands. He can make every swipe of the knife look like fine art on a canvas. After reflecting on what I learned from him in residency, I realized it was not only the technical aspects of surgery but, more importantly, how to really listen and understand patients.
We had patients referred from all over the country with extremely difficult cases. As you know, extremely difficult cases come with extremely difficult patients. Not that these patients are hard to deal with per se but they tend to be very emotional, frustrated, exasperated and sometimes destitute. So I have learned how to listen, understand and manage patients who cry, ramble and vent. Now that I have a large referral practice of my own, my residents whom I am teaching have told me that my patients seem to be more “emotional” than patients in other podiatry offices.
I also want to give thanks to those attendings in my residency who shaped me in some fashion. I did more bunionectomies and hammertoe surgery with Thomas Cain, DPM, than with any other attending. Thank you, Dr. Cain, for teaching me the tenets of bunion surgery. Stanley Kalish, DPM, taught me to lighten up a little. Dr. Kalish always gave me the knife and even though he may have been telling jokes to the OR staff, he was watching closely and teaching me. George Vito, DPM, taught me the principles of external ring fixation.
Steven Arminio, DPM, and Robert Schwartz, DPM, opened my eyes to “real life podiatric surgery.” When I would do cases with them, it would be a simple exostectomy, a hammertoe or maybe a neuroma. I learned I would not be doing revision ankle fusions and Charcot reconstructions every day in practice.
I am thankful that I got to know Gerard Yu, DPM. Everyone who knew him had a story and it always ended in the same way. He made you feel important and special. He had a way about him that is hard to explain.
Finally, I want to thank E. Dalton McGlamry, DPM, for starting what is now known as The Podiatry Institute. Dr. McGlamry and Dr. Ruch have dedicated their professional careers to The Podiatry Institute. Our faculty does not get paid to contribute as The Podiatry Institute is a non-profit organization. Accordingly, there is no payment for lecturing, writing textbooks, teaching a cadaver skills workshop or producing a DVD on surgical techniques. Our faculty has a special camaraderie and is like a second family to me. It is indeed a fraternity like no other. I often wonder what my professional life would be like today if it were not from my training and involvement with The Podiatry Institute.