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How Will Podiatry’s Generation Y Leave Its Mark?

“Exam Download Reminder,” reads the automated email I receive from ExamSoft, a testing software many medical schools now use. ExamSoft has revolutionized the once-dreaded paper testing method. I download the exam within moments and then proceed to study some more.

Electronic testing is not the only stark contrast between the journey of today’s podiatric medical students and their predecessors. In addition to the drastic tuition changes over the years, the profession has evolved tremendously in terms of scope, opportunity, medical curriculum and training.

I enjoy listening to the anecdotes shared by our guest speakers, who are usually seasoned podiatrists who have navigated the organizational ranks of the profession. To me, those stories are more than just a testament to the potential of each student but a reminder of the great shoes my generation has to fill. The profession has come a long way since its formal inception in 1912, back when it was known as the National Association of Chiropodists. With each generation of podiatrists came accomplishments that were revolutionary for their times. What was once the wildest dream of a chiropodist is a reality today thanks to the hard work and dedication of many pioneers, who believed that what podiatry brought to the table was invaluable.

When I think of my colleagues, I see some of the brightest individuals I have ever met. The average age in my class during our incoming year was 24, landing us right at the end of the “echo boomers” spectrum. What some of my colleagues have to offer is remarkable: a wide variety of interests, experiences, languages and talents. Podiatry’s Generation Y is equipped with an unprecedented degree of diversity to take on the challenges that face our profession and propel our visions forward. But as we receive the torch of progress, it is of paramount importance to appreciate the task at hand.

As healthcare continues to be at the forefront of most debates in our nation, we must strive to promote a vision that enables podiatrists to heal to their best ability. At the VA, we must remain vigilant in our request for a status that both recognizes the merit of podiatrists and maximizes access of podiatry services to our veterans. On tuition, we must advocate for reimbursement programs and scholarships that are currently provided to other medical students but not to us, so our successors will not have to endure the expenses we did. At the undergraduate level, we will each have to do our part to resolve the issue of applicant shortages. Finally, on the global stage, U.S. podiatrists pave the way for progress in the ultimate path to parity. It will be up to us to continue that marathon in hopes of one day inspiring podiatrists around the world to do the same.

Each generation of podiatrists proudly wears the badge of its accomplishments and rightfully so. It never ceases to amaze me the level of passion we see from the leaders of our profession. They witnessed firsthand the transformation of the field as it reached the exemplary status of producing the most qualified foot and ankle specialists in the world. Their prowess over the years resonates to this day in all that they do. As many of our leaders approach retirement, their vehemence for the profession shows no signs of dissipating. My hope is that by learning about the trajectory of our mentors’ achievements, this will light a fire that inspires students and young podiatrists to carry on the legacy.

Generation X has done and continues to do its due diligence. We should be eternally grateful for their efforts. My question to my colleagues is: how will we leave our mark?

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