Two-Plus Decades of Dean Robert Yoho

Part of DMU's 2017 Year in Review

A look back at some of the DMU's accomplishments and highlights from the year.

Watch Robert Yoho, D.P.M., M.S., FACFAS, in faculty meetings, in teaching students or in his not-for-wimps CrossFit workouts, and you see he is intentional. But one aspect of his life was less planned – his two decades as dean of DMU’s College of Podiatric Medicine and Surgery (CPMS).

“I’ve learned the influence that life’s circumstances have on your professional goals,” he says. “You may have a plan for your professional career. Then life happens.”

What hasn’t happened: Yoho has not lost his enthusiasm for leading one of the nation’s top podiatric medical schools.

“I’ve always viewed my tenure as dean in five-year cycles and what can we do to make the college better, using strategic planning as the driver of change,” he says. “Otherwise, it could have gotten pretty routine.”

Yoho joined then-University of Osteopathic Medicine and Health Sciences (UOMHS) in 1993 as associate professor. He rose to associate dean and interim dean and was then appointed permanent dean by President Richard Ryan, D.Sc., at a time the institution continued its transition from a single college to a graduate medical university and took on a new name, Des Moines University. He identifies Ryan as his mentor, but he also values working with past DMU President Terry Branstad, J.D., as his acting vice president for academic affairs in addition to his dean responsibilities, and with current President Angela Walker Franklin, Ph.D., whom he feels has effectively promoted the concept of one university.

Nationally, the podiatric profession also has changed. Podiatric physicians are more often the first physicians whom patients turn to regarding an expanding range of foot and ankle problems. Yoho was one of the leaders of that change as a nine-year member of the Council on Podiatric Medical Education (CPME), serving as chair for the accreditation agency for two years.

CPMS has advanced under Yoho’s leadership, too. When he became dean, the college was on shaky ground with CPME, and the third-year curriculum lacked profession-specific clinical training experiences and rotations with other medical specialties. Today CPMS has excellent standing with CPME, and third-year students complete rotations in medicine, vascular surgery, orthopedics and wound management and a two-week emergency medicine simulation rotation. Des Moines University’s Foot and Ankle Clinic has attracted exponential growth, from 2,600 patient visits in 1997 to 8,450 in 2016.

DMU podiatric students’ board exam scores and pass rates have consistently exceeded those of their peers at other podiatric schools. Over the past five years, CPMS has had the highest residency placement, more than 99 percent, among all colleges of podiatric medicine.

One of Yoho’s proudest accomplishments was establishing a memorial scholarship in honor of his administrative assistant Becky Stills, who passed away in 2003. To date, 17 podiatric medical students have received this named scholarship with awards and fund balance approaching $300,000.

Another area in which the college has excelled is its steadily growing research enterprise, including investigations done with faculty members in the DMU physical therapy program. Yoho also points to strong alumni leaders, including dedicated members of the CPMS faculty and staff, for their role in the college’s success.

“You can open any of our journals and see our graduates. We hear a lot of success stories,” he says.

While he jokes that among alumni, “faculty are beloved; deans are tolerated,” Yoho works with, rather than over, his colleagues. He teaches, sees patients and conducts research, which he considers a “respite” (see article below).

“I think I should experience on a smaller scale what faculty do on a daily basis,” he says. “That’s been helpful to me in understanding their challenges.”

Over the years, with increased frequency, he is asked how much longer he will be at DMU. Yoho has had opportunities for positions at other institutions, some having nothing to do with podiatric medicine. He and his wife, Donna, have chosen to remain in central Iowa. One big reason is their granddaughter, Caralyn, daughter of son Nathan Yoho and his wife, Laura. Caralyn was carried by a surrogate mother after Laura was diagnosed with brain cancer. Tragically, she died before her daughter was born.

“Family trumps career aspirations, and those decisions were easy. You do wonder about positions you didn’t take, but I have no regrets and I don’t second-guess,” the dean says. “It’s fun being around smart young people, and I am truly grateful to DMU. It’s been a good run. Hopefully, I will keep running for a few more years.”

Dean Yoho: Beyond DMU

  • Past chair, Council on Podiatric Medical Education and American Association of Colleges of Podiatric Medicine
  • Past governor-appointed member, Iowa Board of Podiatric Medical Examiners
  • Fellow, American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons
  • Education: M.S., Duquesne University; D.P.M., Ohio College of Podiatric Medicine; podiatric medical and surgical residency, Riverside Hospital, Toledo, OH

Part of DMU's 2017 Year in Review

A look back at some of the DMU's accomplishments and highlights from the year.

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