Satterfield named podiatric dean at WesternU

V. Kathleen Satterfield, D.P.M.’91, FACFAOM, MAPWCA

V. Kathleen Satterfield, D.P.M.’91, FACFAOM, MAPWCA, has had many accomplishments in her career as well as at least two failures: She’s twice failed at retirement.

She had planned to retire this spring as associate dean of the College of Podiatric Medicine (CPM) at Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona, CA, when university leaders asked her to step up to the deanship of the college. The primary reason she agreed to do so: CPM students. 

“I consider it a real privilege to work with them. My husband and I were never blessed with children, but I feel as though I’ve had hundreds.” 

Another reason: CPM is moving toward having its students earn the physicians and surgeons certificate that’s granted in California. Toward that end, the college has undertaken a multi-year process with the American Podiatric Medical Association in which its students will take the comprehensive basic science examination to test their readiness to sit for the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination steps 1, 2 and 3. 

“Once we prove our students are passing the same tests that their D.O. and M.D. colleagues do with success, we have a good argument that we have reached parity,” she says.

“I want to leave the profession better than it is, and I think it’s pretty wonderful now.”

So wonderful, in fact, that Satterfield gave up her first career as an investigative journalist for the El Paso (TX) Times to pursue podiatric medicine. As a reporter, she met a group of podiatrists who specialized in diabetic limb salvage and wound care. Intrigued, she attended night school to complete her prerequisites for podiatric school. When she interviewed at the College of Podiatric Medicine and Surgery (CPMS) at the University of Osteopathic Medicine and Health Sciences, now DMU, she met the college’s then-dean, Leonard Levy, D.P.M. 

“I really liked his vision,” she says. “We were in the former chapel, which had bats that would fly across the classroom. But I made the best friends of my life there. They’re my ‘2 a.m. friends’ – the ones I could call at 2 a.m. if I needed help.” 

After practicing in Vermont, Satterfield was recruited by CPMS to join the faculty and later served as associate dean for academic affairs. Eventually, she was recruited by Lawrence Harkless, D.P.M., to join the orthopedic department/podiatry service at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. The two had met at a meeting of the American Podiatric Medical Students’ Association (APMSA) when Satterfield was a CPMS student and her class’s APMSA representative. 

“Dr. Harkless has just figured so significantly in my career. In Texas, I worked with patients with diabetes, which gave me the opportunity to specialize. Pretty soon I was lecturing around the world – in London, Cairo, Paris – on the use of different technologies to provide wound care.” 

Harkless left Texas to become founding dean of CPM at WesternU. He again recruited Satterfield – her second retirement “failure” – to consult the college on curriculum design. She went on to join the faculty, rising to associate professor and associate dean. 

“There’s something about me and retirement that doesn’t work,” she says. 

Satterfield is grateful for her profession, this new phase in her career and for her own medical alma mater. 

“I wouldn’t be where I am today were it not for CPMS and Dean [R. Tim] Yoho,” she says. 

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