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Thinking Outside Of The Proverbial Shoe Box With Your DPM Degree

As we come to the end of what seems like an endless year, I do not want to address a controversial or “walking on thin ice” topic. Instead, I want us to end the year 2020 with a brighter outlook and harvest positive energy for what is to come in the year 2021. 

We are all familiar with the medical sales representative pitch of, “Doctor, I have this product/software/device that will pay for itself and generate you tens of thousands of dollars.” Before the pitch is even complete, we have completely drifted off. But what if I told you that we have already purchased and attained the one “product or device” that could generate hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars? 

I know you are waiting for some gimmick but there is no catch. It is the Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM) degree. Think back to your first day of podiatric medical school and how enthusiastic you were when you began the journey that would change your life forever. This is the same energy we need to bring daily to our patients, coworkers, colleagues and our profession. 

Recently, I listened to a podcast titled “Physician Non-clinical Careers” hosted by John Jurica, MD. The guest physician on one particular episode that sparked me to write this month’s column was Podiatry Today’s very own Jennifer Spector, DPM, FACFAS. In summary, the episode entails Dr. Spector’s journey and path to her current position as Associate Editor of Podiatry Today. After I finished listening to the podcast, I started to reflect on other DPMs I personally know who are in non-clinical careers or are using their clinical career as a platform for non-clinical pursuits. 

I immediately thought of my current Fellowship Director and mentor D. Scot Malay, DPM, MSCE, who is the current Editor of the Journal of Foot and Ankle Surgery. Most recently, I learned that another mentor, Lawrence Harkless, DPM, was inducted to the National Public Radio Foundation Board of Trustees, and this could become a fruitful platform to advocate for our profession in a non-clinical manner. 

A great friend and colleague of mine, Nathaniel George, DPM, recently dipped his toe into the application development world after devising, creating and executing the manifestation of a smartphone application called Jamaa Health, which focuses on the awareness and advocacy of minorities’ access to physicians of color nationwide, inclusive of all specialties. 

Lastly, Ebonie Vincent, DPM, a friend of mine since podiatric medical school, is the co-star of cable television’s hit series My Feet are Killing Me and spinoff series My Feet are Killing Me: First Steps that air weekly on TLC. These series have made podiatric medicine and surgery a hot topic worldwide. 

I understand these physicians and their primary or adjunctive non-clinical careers may appear rare, but they do not have to be. I used my DPM degree to sit on an institutional review board at an Ivy League institution. Furthermore, I have even contributed as an author for a memoir book dedicated to physician perseverance. I must also mention that my former residency chief, Ariel Lepoff, DPM, AACFAS, is an author of several children’s books. 

There are no limits to where this degree can take us if we just open our minds to the opportunity and follow our passions. For decades, leaders in the profession have actively pursued parity and equality to our allopathic and osteopathic brothers and sisters, but we have to continue to push the envelope as DPMs. 

All podiatric physicians and surgeons invest hefty amounts of money and immeasurable time to achieve their DPM degree with up to six additional years of post-graduate training. Furthermore, the majority of physicians acquire immense amounts of debt consisting of student loans, personal loans or business loans throughout their careers. Pivotal moments and obstacles such as economic recession, economic insecurity or economic uncertainty should challenge and implore us to brainstorm and explore at least two non-clinical careers for the year 2021 that utilize our hard-earned training. n 

Dr. Johnson is a second-year Podiatric Medicine and Surgery Clinical Research Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania-Penn Presbyterian Medical Center in Philadelphia. Dr. Johnson is a NIH-NMA Academic Medicine Fellow supported by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) and the only podiatric physician this year to receive this nationally recognized honor. Dr. Johnson dedicates this column to Carlos “Charlie” Vallejo, MD (1963-2020), who is the father of his longtime friend, Gisselle Vallejo. Dr. Vallejo lost his battle to COVID-19 serving on the pandemic front lines. 

Alton Johnson, DPM
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