DMU College of Podiatric Medicine and Surgery honors distinguished graduates

The 2020 graduates of Des Moines University’s College of Podiatric Medicine and Surgery (CPMS) continued the tradition of reading the Podiatric Oath together, although they did so in a way no previous CPMS graduating class has – virtually, via Zoom.

They also graduated in a virtual commencement ceremony with other Class of 2020 members in DMU’s College of Osteopathic Medicine and College of Health Sciences and enjoyed the college’s virtual awards ceremony. During that event, CPMS Dean Robert Yoho, D.P.M., M.S., FACFAS, thanked class members for their patience and understanding in how they had to adjust to complete the requirements of their final semester.

“When you look back and tell your children and your grandchildren, this time really will be etched in history,” he said. “I think you all will have a story to tell because there’s something so unique about what happened in the winter, spring and probably summer of 2020.”

Dean Yoho praised class members for their high performance. Their first-time pass rates on the American Podiatric Medical Licensing Exam (APMLE) I and II and on the Clinical Skills Patient Encounter (CSPE) exceeded national average pass rates, and the graduates achieved a 100 percent residency placement rate. The class produced and presented more than 20 scientific research posters and won second place in the 2019 student poster competition at the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons conference. In addition, class member Alex Bischoff was selected by the American Podiatric Medical Students’ Association (APMSA) as the 2019 national APMSA Student of the Year.

“Finishing my medical training with a few months of canceled externships due to the pandemic was a unique experience. But I am grateful for the training I received and look forward to the future,” says Dr. Bischoff, who received the CPMS Clinical Performance Award and Service Award and was honored as a member of Pi Delta, the national honor society for podiatric medicine. He will complete a foot and ankle surgery residency at Grant Medical Center in Columbus, OH. “I have loved my time in Des Moines. It has been a great school filled with people I now call my good friends.”

While these newly minted health care professionals were denied the in-person, on-campus festivities of past graduations, the CPMS students largely expressed gratitude for their classmates, faculty and the education they earned. They also agreed that DMU and CPMS have a supportive culture, which is invaluable to medical students.

“With all the rigorous course work you endure in medical school, I could not have asked for better faculty in both the basic sciences and CPMS departments at DMU. They alongside my classmates made my experience at DMU worthwhile, and the years seemed to fly by,” said Bennen Bierman, a Pi Delta member who was honored as the CPMS Graduate with Distinction and a Basic Science Award recipient. “I am grateful for my training that DMU has provided me for my next step, which is a podiatric surgical residency at Sanford Health in Fargo, ND.”

Edee Renier, a CPMS Research Award recipient, echoed the rigors and rewards experienced as a podiatric medical student.

“The time I spent studying at Des Moines University makes up some of the most strenuous and rewarding moments of my life. I can remember countless nights spent at the library with Expo marker all over a whiteboard and my hands,” she said. She will complete her foot and ankle surgery residency at the Swedish Medical Center in Seattle. “I’ll be moving forward into residency confident in everything I’ve learned at DMU and grateful for all the friends I’ve made. I feel an immense sense of pride graduating from Des Moines University, and I would like to say congratulations to the Class of 2020 for facing significant adversity with grace.”

CPMS graduate and Pi Delta member Zachary Bliek said his classmates and faculty allowed him to quickly feel “right at home” as a student, during which time he and his wife, Victoria, became parents of son Liam.

“Getting a doctorate is something we all value, but my family and the friendships I made are invaluable. Medical school itself has its own hardships, and when life outside of medical school gets tough, life as a whole can get really difficult,” he said. He will soon begin the podiatric medical residency program at Iowa Methodist Medical Center in Des Moines. “It was amazing to see the Class of 2020 support each other through all the hardships. It made each one of us stronger. DMU is family.”

That was literally true, in part, for fellow CPMS graduate and Pi Delta member Jake Harder. His father, Steve Harder, D.O., FAAFP, is a 1988 graduate of DMU’s osteopathic medical program and now assistant professor of family and internal medicine at the University; his brother, Trenton Harder, D.O., is a 2019 graduate.

“I was able to be hooded by my dad, which was special to me since my brother was also hooded by him during their ceremony last year,” Jake Harder says. He and his wife, Jess, are moving to Milwaukee for his residency.

Pi Delta member Brett Albert, recipient of the Dwayne S. Rivard, D.P.M., Surgery Award, will become a resident physician at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis in June. “I look forward to building upon the foundation of medical knowledge and skills I have built here at DMU,” he said.

The education and preparation they gained as CPMS students give other members of the Class of 2020 that sense of positivity.

“While I wish we were celebrating graduation differently, I still get to be very thankful for the gift of these past four years of education at DMU,” said graduate John Paul Sevcik. “Not only have I been given the gift of my education, which undoubtedly is the university’s main mission, but I had the extreme joy of meeting my soon-to-be wife, Dr. Jessi Heinz, D.P.T., many wonderful classmates, members of the faculty and staff, and countless others during my years in Des Moines.

Recipient of the CPMS Leadership Award, as a student Dr. Sevcik served as the CPMS Student Government Association president and as the co-director of the DMU Choir. He plans to begin residency training at St. Rita’s Medical Center in Lima, OH, in July. 

“While the funk of COVID-19 is still hanging over everything, I am incredibly excited for the days that are soon to come,” he says.

Stefany Carvalho, a CPMS Research Award recipient, shares that excitement and gratitude. She will soon become a resident in podiatric medicine and surgery with reconstruction rearfoot/ankle surgery at University Hospital in Newark, NJ.

“My time at DMU has shaped many facets of my life while helping me forge lifelong friendships. Professors and classmates have challenged me to grow and improve every day in my courses and research endeavors,” she said. “I am thankful for the opportunities to give back to the local and global community during my time at DMU. These experiences have established the platform on which I will create a fulfilling and productive career.”

The following awards were bestowed on members of the CPMS Class of 2020:

  • Graduate with Distinction: Bennen Bierman
  • Leadership Award: John Paul Sevcik
  • Dwayne S. Rivard, D.P.M., Surgery Award: Brett Albert
  • American Board of Podiatric Medicine Graduate Merit Award: Leng Xiong
  • Basic Science Award: Bennen Bierman
  • Clinical Performance Award: Alex Bischoff
  • Service Award: Alex Bischoff
  • Research Award: Stefany Carvalho and Edee Renier
  • Pi Delta Members: Brett Albert; Steven Anderson; Bennen Bierman; Alex Bischoff; Zachary Bliek; Spencer Hammack; Jacob Harder; Austin Quebedeaux; Leng Xiong
    • Pi Delta is the national honor society for podiatric medicine, created to recognize excellence in academics, service and research within the profession.
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