This is a question that as a fourth-year podiatric medical student I get asked daily, and it is usually followed by an “Eww, they are so gross.”
First, let’s set the record straight in that many specialties beat podiatric medicine on the gross spectrum. Second, my answer to the “why feet?” question starts back in 1993.
On my first birthday, my parents and I were in a serious automobile accident caused by a drunk driver. I had to have multiple surgeries over the next four years. Having spent so much time in doctors’ offices, I became obsessed with the workings of the human body and the idea of being a doctor.
That night also contributed to one of my first obstacles. The trauma caused me to stop talking. My tongue muscles, therefore, did not develop properly, resulting in a severe speech impediment. It was so bad at times that only my mother could understand me, people asked if I was mentally handicapped, I attended speech therapy for 17 years and I was constantly picked on.
My classmates now would say that I have no issue speaking out in class, but in elementary and middle school I prayed I would not get called on. It took a lot of work, stepping out of my comfort zone to get me where I am now, which is I love talking to crowds.
I have wanted to be a doctor for as long as I can remember (the only other profession I ever considered was an Olympic gymnast, which seeing I had women’s size 7 shoes in first grade and a dad who is 6’7” didn’t seem like it would work out). As a 5’7” 10-year-old athlete with now women’s size 12 shoes who incurred many broken bones, I got the idea that I liked orthopedics.
When I tore my patella tendon in high school, I had a zillion questions for Dr. Jon Henry. His invitation to shadow led me to becoming a frequent visitor in his office and operating room. I sought opportunities to observe everything from common sprains and new nonsurgical options to emergency surgeries with doctors across the Midwest.
I first learned about podiatric medicine in June 2013. As a college basketball player, I had been having weird numbness in my foot for a few weeks. Eric Caporusso, D.P.M., diagnosed me with tarsal tunnel syndrome and performed surgery on my right foot. Four months later, I noticed the same symptoms in my left foot and again had surgery. All the surgery (which I made them take pictures of), office visits and shadowing gave me a good idea of what podiatric medicine was. I still had the goal of becoming an orthopedic surgeon, but fate was about to change that.
I met Joe in 2015. Falling in love with him, I realized I want a family and to be a surgeon, but I want to be able to coach my future kids’ basketball teams. I also wanted that rush of energy that entwines me every time I enter an operating room. I applied to the podiatric medical program that same night. It was the best decision I ever made.
I am now a fourth-year D.P.M. student who has four global health trips under her belt, has been published in multiple research journals, was the first D.P.M. student to ever intern at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and who has enjoyed every minute of it – well, since they put me on citalopram (go med school anxiety!!!). I also know I have family, friends and an amazing boyfriend who love and support me no matter what. Do I wish the car accident on my first birthday or my torn knee or sucky feet didn’t happen? No. I am so thankful for all of these challenges and bumps in the road, because without them I wouldn’t be where I am today.