This month’s blog comes courtesy of Garret Strand, a first-year podiatric medical student at the Dr. William M. Scholl College of Podiatric Medicine at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science. His commentary emphasizes the importance of why all of us who are established in the profession should take the opportunity to mentor the podiatrists of tomorrow.
— Bradly Bussewitz, DPM
As I am finishing my winter quarter of classes as a first-year podiatric medical student, I hear I am now officially in the “meat” of what it takes to live and survive as a current podiatric medical student. My classmates and I are in and out of labs, workshops, podiatric ethical meetings, etc. We have experienced the enjoyment and fatigue of the first year of medical training. The reality is another test is always around the corner.
I wanted to share my experience as a current first-year student. First of all, I want to express how grateful I am to be in my situation as a podiatric student. I’ve been planning and preparing for this experience for what seems like forever. I was fortunate enough to work in a private podiatric clinic with two quality physicians as mentors. These doctors taught me so much and solidified my decision to become a podiatrist. They have shown me what it takes to be an excellent doctor and I cannot thank them enough for everything they have done. I was pleasantly surprised to learn the majority of my classmates had a similar relationship in the profession, either via relatives or from shadowing experiences with DPMs who influenced us to follow in their footsteps.
People sometimes ask us, “Why do you want to become a foot doctor?” We are proud to respond with, “I have experienced quality podiatric mentoring.” These doctors provided the optimism of joining the profession.
I want to go out into the field and care for the people who need my help. I want to field questions about conservative versus invasive treatments, and I want to have the confidence in my training and experiences to follow up with the appropriate care. Granted, the only knowledge that I feel completely comfortable with providing at this point in my studies is which enzymes are involved in the urea cycle (thank you, biochemistry). However, I have seen and been exposed to what’s beyond the first year fence and couldn’t be more excited to get there.
With all this optimism comes the second component of school that has caught my eye: competition. We students are competitive by nature and requirement. We are competitive among each other and within ourselves.
An aspect that drives this competition, I believe, are the dreaded words “residency shortage.” We feel this pressure and think of it daily. I also know that as a first-year student, residency should not be on my mind at this moment but it is on my mind. We became aware of the shortage a while ago from older students, doctor mentors and stories of unplaced graduates.
To be completely honest, that scared us, me especially. To think that after graduating and working so hard toward the goal of becoming a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine that there is still the risk of not being placed in a residency program is a hard pill to swallow, no pun intended. This has motivated me and those around me to work as hard as possible but ultimately, some will be left behind.
We want those available spots and feel like we deserve them. We strive to do anything we can right now as first-year students to relieve our fear of not advancing in a podiatric career. I see this drive throughout my class with students staying late at the libraries, volunteering the nights before important exams, and becoming involved in many different clubs and organizations. We all are striving to stand out so clinics and programs recognize our hard work and appreciate our passion for this profession. This is what we want, what we are paying for and what we will do anything to obtain.
This competition and drive to succeed will be my life for the next couple of years. I know it is a tough road to go down and sacrifices will need to happen, but I also know that this is worth doing. This profession is what I am working hard for. It is why I get up early for class every day, why I choose to make time to learn the material, and why I convince myself that coming out of school with excessive debt will all be worth it in the end.
I would like to thank my podiatric mentors for giving me this opportunity and being a good role model to me and to all aspiring podiatrists.