Passing The Torch And A Positive Attitude To Podiatry Students

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Megan Lawton, DPM

Recently we have been reading of podiatrists recommending to the younger generation that they not enter the field of podiatry. This issue has understandably drawn strong responses on either side.

   When I first saw this, I had a flashback to when I was in school and someone suggested “finding something else to do (because) the profession is going downhill.” Most of my colleague’s defense was that he was making half the amount he used to make for something like a bunion surgery. I dismissed most of the naysayers because I had way more positive people surrounding me.

   We sometimes live in a bubble of the podiatry world. It is a smaller profession but there are many publications to keep our minds involved and numerous meetings.

   Recently, however, I came across a Wall Street Journal piece in which someone sought advice for what to say when addressing second-year MBA students. The person asked, “Knowing what you know now, what is the best advice you would give these aspiring young professionals?”

   Upon reading this, I immediately drew a connection to the students in podiatry school. What advice would you honestly give the aspiring students?

   I was pleasantly surprised when I did not read any negative comments in the Wall Street Journal article. Here are some excerpts from what the professionals would tell MBA students: “Seek out wisdom and advice from older sages. Avoid people who are negative.”

   “The day after you graduate, your education and experience set will one day be out of date. Do not look at this as a negative. Everything in your education has been about learning new things and adapting in the process.”

   The response that particularly got to me was from a current student. “I am soon to graduate with an MBA and I constantly wonder whether I am going to have acquired the skills expected of an MBA … We need reassurance that we are making the right move and that what we have worked for is valued in the real world.”

   It was both a relief and sad moment. I felt relief in the sense that podiatry is not the only profession with these issues. However, I also found it sad that some students have to seek out confidence when entering into their profession.

   It is not as if podiatry students do not have enough to worry about with increasing student loans, matching with a residency position or passing finals. Do they now have to read about people currently in the profession who are not recommending the field?

   If established professionals really felt that strongly about not entering the profession, then they can set an example by getting out of it instead of just talking the talk. I know I might get some excuses of “I am just in it because I can’t find anything else to do at this point” or “It is a lot of extra hassle but I still love what I do.”

   It does not matter. You are still in it so I guess it is not that bad. If you really think it is that bad, you should get out of it.

   Every profession goes through changes, good and bad. There are going to be a lot of changes to the way we practice in the next coming years due to recent healthcare reform. As a united front, we will adapt and do so successfully. Just as there was the introduction of HMOs and managed care, there was adaptation.

   It would be in the best interest of the podiatric community to mentor students who have already made the choice to become a physician in our profession. I do not mean the kind of “mentors” that I was sometimes placed with, those who decided to tell me only negative things about work all day.

   I mean the mentors who are positive toward work and the podiatry world. I am talking about the mentors who are so excited about the profession that teaching comes easily. The mentors who want to strive to do more within the podiatric arena. The mentors who truly want others to succeed within podiatry.

   We have more of these types of people than we know and now is the time to show it.

   Dr. Lawton is in private practice in Naples, Fla.

   Dr. McCord recently retired from practice at the Centralia Medical Center in Centralia, Wash.


I would NEVER encourage a bright pre-med student toward podiatry. It would be an invitation into an ever grovelling profession subsisting on an unrecognizable degree, high student loan indebtedness and very little opportunity for growth outside of clinical care. Despite the cheerleading "surgeons," the scope of practice issues have remained at best stagnant. The incredible state to state political wrangling and national organization has remained for the past half decade as insufficient to meet the needs of a profession which promised so much to its students.

Certainly there are success stories, but more young practitioners remain trapped in a vicious cycle of podocentric inbred fighting. More podiatrists have left the profession, retired or gone out on dubious disability than the onslaught of multi-year trained indebted DPMs whose license limits their overtrained abilities to conditions treatable by a host of other professions.

It is dishonest to extol the virtues of a profession by the few vociferous DPMs and casting aside those who speak the truth as naysayers, failures, miscreants or some other self-loathing individuals.

After nearly forty years: "What is a DPM?"

Good question.

A conundrum wrapped in a mystery surrounded by a fog. Podiatry has the pieces but has yet to find the right puzzle - How many more young lives will be academically scarred and left in debt for the ineptitude of a few greedy selfish marginally talented people?

Podiatry. Where mediocrity meets reality - and because of the blinders - the leadership fails to see what is.

Reread The Emperors New Clothes and you can see how some cannot see things for what they are.

How many certifying boards does it take to make the letters DPM recognizable? Whacky videos gone viral make moronic acts household names - 40 years of empty promises.

I am absolutely blown away here. People need to take responsibility for their decisions. I hated hearing from my fellow students, "Nobody ever told us that!" My answer to that question is "Why didn't you find that out for yourself? The answer is there and no one owes you anything." It kind of sounds like the old X-Files moto "The answer is out there!"

It is up to us to champion our profession and no one else. I worked hard in podiatry school, struggled when I didn't match for a surgical residency at first but eventually finished my residency career with three years of training which was rare at the time.

Those who denounce podiatry or tell the younger generation that there is no room for them anymore are greedy naysayers who know that the next generation is upon them and it scares the crap out of them.

Our future is the brightest its ever been. EVERYONE getting three years of training and able to perform surgery out of residency. WOW!!! Nobody in the community I practice in asks "What is a DPM?" because we as a podiatric group of colleagues make a concerted effort to educate the layman and our medical community. We enjoy ankle privileges and are faculty at the local medical school who are respected as foot and ankle surgeons.

Get a grip folks. We are what we make our profession. Do you want to hide in a corner and complain or show the communities that we are who we say we are? THE foot and ankle experts.

Those of you who don't agree with this need to go out and read a book called "Who Moved my Cheese?" Evolve or die.

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