Students in DMU’s College of Podiatric Medicine and Surgery (CPMS) chose their future profession for many reasons, including its wide variety of practice options, relationships they’ll establish with their patients and the positive impact they’ll have in enhancing patients’ mobility, function and quality of life. Many CPMS students also are trying to change two aspects of the profession – to raise awareness about it among prospective students and the public, and to continue achieving parity with osteopathic and allopathic professions in terms of medical reimbursement.
That advocacy and push for change were reflected in essays that three teams of CPMS students submitted to the annual writing competition of Hallux Magazine™, an online site that promotes podiatric medicine to high school students, college students and pre-podiatry students. It is among the websites of the umbrella site PrePodiatryLife, including PrePodiatryClinic101.com and PrePodiatryStudy.com.
The three CPMS student teams were finalists in the competition.
“As students, we are truly on the ‘front lines’ of advocacy and recruitment helping to propel the profession forward,” says Amar Alkhafaji, a third-year CPMS student. In the third-place essay he co-authored with classmate Mitchell Booth, titled “A Letter from the Front Lines,” they described efforts of the American Podiatric Medical Students’ Association (APMSA) that helped result in passage of the VA MISSION Act of 2018, or the Maintaining Internal Systems and Strengthening Integrated Outside Networks Act, which includes official recognition of podiatric medical physicians as physicians within the Veterans Administration system.
Their essay also noted APMSA’s next effort, to ensure passage of the Helping Ensure Life- and Limb-saving Access to Podiatric Physicians (HELLPP) Act, which would expand Medicaid coverage for foot and ankle care provided by podiatric medical physicians rather than only by D.O.s and M.D.s. In the previous academic year, DMU’s APMSA chapter hosted a table in the Student Education Center where students could snag a chocolate chip cookie and use laptops to send letters supporting the act to their congressional representatives.
“Along with the rapid evolution of podiatric medicine comes the concurrent responsibility of addressing the pertinent issues that arise. It is our duty as the APMSA to meet these challenges with unwavering devotion,” the two students stated. “We envision a profession unhindered by the barriers of today and well equipped to handle the obstacles of tomorrow.”
In their finalist essay, titled “Do Podiatrists Owe Americans an Answer?,” William Bui Tran, Sara Judickas, Anjali Chandra and Kirk Metzger noted that the public lacks awareness of the podiatric medical profession because many geographic areas in the United States don’t have podiatric medical physicians and because they don’t have equal parity with other medical professionals.
“In order to tackle these issues, students at Des Moines University gathered and founded a Podiatric Medicine Advocacy (PMA) group in 2014 with the hopes of being able to educate the community about the roles and values behind a podiatric medical physician,” they wrote.
Efforts of PMA include the annual “Get Your Foot in the Door,” where middle and high school students interact with CPMS students and rotate around hands-on stations, and talks at undergraduate institutions’ campuses. In the past year, Bui Tran also participated in the Iowa Medical Society’s Physician Day on the Hill at the Iowa Legislature.
“I spoke up for my profession, shared what I do and talked with legislators about what I’m proud of as a podiatric medical physician,” he said. “What’s very special about PMA is that our past and present leadership really brings out what we can do as a club for our mission. I have the opportunity to carry forward that legacy and pass it on to the next generation.”
In their finalist essay in the Hallux Magazine™ writing competition, fourth-year CPMS students Ersta Ferryanto and Li-Yuan Lee described a patient case, based on one they’d seen on rotation, of a diabetic male diagnosed with a superficial skin infection in an emergency room but later found to have acute Charcot.
“Being able to recognize common foot and ankle pathology, especially something as severe as Charcot arthropathy, one should be more familiarized for at-risk populations. This is where podiatrists play an important role,” the students stated in the essay, titled “A Foot in the Gutter, It’s Right up Our Alley.”
Ferryanto and Lee wrote the “ignorance” the podiatric medical profession faces leads to its “failure to fill our nation’s need” for its practitioners.
“There is a growing demand for health care professionals everywhere,” they added, “but podiatry is in a unique position in that we serve the growing dichotomy of the American population, one which is increasingly overweight, obese, diabetic, and another which is embracing a lifestyle of fitness and wellness.”