Each spring, Des Moines University students from the College of Podiatric Medicine and Surgery volunteer with “Fit Feet,” a Special Olympics program that helps athletes step lively on the playing field, and in everyday life.
Many participating athletes suffer from foot and ankle pain, or deformities that impair their performance. According to Special Olympics, up to 50 percent of their athletes experience one or more preventable or treatable foot conditions that can affect their sports participation. Often, these individuals are not fitted with the best shoes and socks for their particular sport. To alleviate these problems, volunteer podiatrists work with athletes to evaluate problems of the feet, ankles and lower extremity biomechanics.
“I can’t imagine a better opportunity for our students to learn how to display empathy and compassion for our patients,” said Dr. Mindi Feilmeier, D.P.M., FACFAS, who volunteered to oversee DMU volunteers at the event.
Students reflecting on the experience said some of the barriers participants expressed will impact their understanding as healthcare providers.
“Many [Special Olympics] patients were also from underserved communities so this is always an eye-opener for me,” said Jassie McGovern, D.P.M.’18. “By talking to them, they give me perspective on how some of the rural patients have limited access to not only quality healthcare but other needs such as something as simple as shopping for new shoes.”