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Stepping Out Of One’s Comfort Zone To Serve Podiatry

The large orthopedic practice that I work for conducts quarterly education programs for the clinical staff. The presentations vary and aim to expand our overall knowledge base. In April, I was asked to give one of these presentations live with employees attending in smaller sessions. Unfortunately, the ever-changing climate of COVID-19 in my area altered the timing and nature of this plan. My practice postponed the session until August and planned for a recorded lecture over our intranet system. 

I have never been very comfortable with public speaking. However, I have found it is so much easier when I am speaking about podiatry. I love this profession and being able to practice it every day. Speaking to crowds comes much more easily to me when it is about anything podiatry-related. For some reason, though, the idea of this particular talk being a recording threw me into a tizzy. As a result, this lecture became outside my comfort zone. 

A friend of mine told me, “You will rock your lecture.” This definitely helped. She didn’t have to say that like my husband does! While the recorded presentation was outside of my comfort zone, it was still a source of happiness and excitement. I could see the potential benefit in sharing a small part of my podiatry knowledge, even if I was still nervous while recording. The possible benefit to others made it worthwhile. 

The first big step I took out of my professional comfort zone was running for a trustee position with my state podiatric medical association. I had previously held smaller local leadership positions but this was my first large-scale role. Sitting in front of a room full of leaders from all over my state, I found myself squarely outside of my comfort zone. Gigantic butterflies flitted about in my stomach the entire time I answered questions about myself. Amazingly, they took flight and left as soon as the conversation moved onto the profession of podiatry and how we could improve it for our members. 

I am grateful that I was elected and given the opportunity to work to improve our profession. It is absolutely incredible to work with such a talented and driven board. It has been inspiring to see the passion our leaders have and how they push hard on a daily basis to improve the careers and lives of our fellow podiatrists. 

Late last year, I became more involved with the American Association for Women Podiatrists (AAWP) as their Student Chapter Coordinator. I am proud to see the hard work and dedication among our student members as they strive to become remarkable podiatrists, never forgetting to put in the effort to lead our field and their peers forward. In this position, I watched more of the Executive Board workings behind the scenes. I am honored to now step into the role of Secretary of the AAWP so I can continue to step outside of my comfort zone for the best possible reason; continuing to support and advance our profession, and all of its members. 

So why should you step out of your comfort zone and into a leadership role? If you are like me, the answer is simple: your love of podiatry makes you want to make it an incredible profession for all of your colleagues and all of the patients we help. Is it a nice feather in your cap to have those extra credentials behind your name? Sure it is but that is not the reasoning I find with any leaders in our field and their respective organizations. We are here for our love and passion for podiatry. 

It is an honor to work day in and day out with some of the most impressive and passionate people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. These are people who work tirelessly for the good of the profession and each of its members. I would be lying to say there are not sacrifices as well as added stress and work involved with these endeavors. However, I know each of these leaders, myself included, would do it all over again if given the chance. The ability to make a difference and work with an amazing group of individuals to make that difference are the ultimate rewards. In fact, Daniel Keating, DPM, in his final President’s message to the New York State Podiatric Medical Association (NYSPMA), stated “I have never looked at the position of president as one of power, only service to the membership of the NYSPMA. This is truly a team effort.”  

Dr. Hook is a Trustee of the New York State Podiatric Medical Association, Chair of the NYSPMA Public Education and Information Committee, and a sub-chair of the American Board of Podiatric Medicine Membership Committee in the Crisis Communication and Audit division. She is also the Secretary of the American Association for Women Podiatrists and is in private practice at Syracuse Orthopedic Specialists in Syracuse, N.Y. 

By Stephanie Hook, DPM, DABPM, FACPM
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