One of my favorite parts of attending podiatry seminars is the interactions I have with podiatry students, podiatry residents and young podiatrists. Since I graduated from podiatry school over three decades ago, being able to have conversations with the younger generation of my podiatric colleagues always makes me feel a little less ancient than I really am.
An example of this came at a recent podiatric seminar where a young podiatrist introduced herself and asked me how she could get started in researching, writing and publishing for the podiatry profession. She expressed an interest in research in surgical biomechanics and wanted to do some meaningful research for the podiatric profession. After answering her questions, it was her final question that I had the most difficult time answering: “Dr. Kirby, what made you want to research, write and teach for your profession?”
In the brief period that I spent trying to remember times long past, my mind traveled back to those days of relative youth. During my podiatry student years, I remembered that I had a strong initial interest in biomechanics and sports medicine, and wanted to specialize in these fields. Likewise, I recalled spending countless hours learning in these subjects from some of the best minds in the country, including Merton Root, DPM, John Weed, DPM, Ronald Valmassy, DPM, Christopher Smith, DPM, Jack Morris, DPM, Paul Scherer, DPM, and Richard Blake, DPM, at the California College of Podiatric Medicine.
I also remembered being inspired by these same podiatrists who had all devoted their lives toward furthering my profession’s knowledge in biomechanics and sports medicine. Lastly, I recollected that they had encouraged me to do the research necessary to seek answers to some of the mysteries of foot and lower extremity function in which we all had a common interest.
I told the inquisitive young podiatrist that I had never intended to do research, write or lecture for my profession when I entered podiatry school. Rather, it seemed as if I was drawn into it by being surrounded and nurtured by this group of learned individuals who shared my own curiosity and academic interest in foot and lower extremity function and sports medicine.
The best explanation that I could come up with as to what made me want to do research, write and teach was that it was because my professors had somehow prepared the path for me to do so. All that I needed to do then was simply take the time and effort to try and add to the knowledge base that I had already seen accomplished by the real-life examples of my own professors: my mentors.
Would I have made this commitment as a young podiatry student and podiatrist if I hadn’t first been stimulated and encouraged by these individuals who were not only my mentors but also were some of the country’s best-known minds in their own specialties? I honestly don’t think so. By being continually immersed within this academic environment, it was just as if these individuals collectively opened the door and showed me the path toward researching, writing and teaching. It was not until I started to follow this path that I began to realize that this was the journey that I wanted to take not only to satisfy my own intellectual curiosity but to also contribute toward educating other podiatrists.
My example of being mentored as a young podiatry student, resident and podiatrist by academically minded members from within the podiatric profession is not unique. Most of the podiatric educators of today that I have spoken to about this same subject have nearly all acknowledged that they were inspired to do research, write and teach by their own sets of podiatric mentors. These mentors had also taken the time and effort to instill in them the knowledge and desire to contribute to and further the academic excellence of their profession.
This time-honored tradition of older, more experienced podiatrists mentoring young podiatry students, residents and podiatrists has helped create the podiatric leaders of today and continues to make the podiatric profession the world’s foremost experts in foot and ankle biomechanics, surgery and medicine. Let us all continue to make every effort to mentor and encourage our young podiatrists since, like me, they may only need someone to inspire them and guide them toward their path of becoming the podiatric researchers and educators of the future.
Dr. Kirby is an Adjunct Associate Professor within the Department of Applied Biomechanics at the California School of Podiatric Medicine at Samuel Merritt University in Oakland, Calif. He is in private practice in Sacramento, Calif.
Dr. McCord retired from practice in 2008 at the Centralia Medical Center in Centralia, Wash.