Podiatric clinical experiences at DMU: “most exciting yet humbling time in my life thus far”

Acute heart failure, rat bite fever and of course everything related to the lower limb: The clinical rotations experienced by third- and fourth-year students in DMU’s College of Podiatric Medicine and Surgery (CPMS) are diverse, challenging, rewarding and well-rounded – and everything but dull.

John Jaeger, D.P.M.’22 (DMU Photo by Brett T. Roseman)

“The transition from classroom to clinic was definitely nerve-racking at first. We learn so much over our first two years of school, and I was worried I wasn’t going to be able to remember and apply it all with patients,” says John Jaeger, a third-year CPMS student. “After the first few patients, the butterflies subsided, and I realized I did retain a good amount of the information from our course work. The feeling of nervousness transformed into excitement as each patient was a new way to test my knowledge.”

CPMS’s clinical experiences combine several unique advantages. During their third year, podiatric students rotate with the college’s full-time faculty who also serve as clinicians in the University’s on-campus Foot and Ankle Clinic.

“We all have a stake in our students’ success and competency,” says Kevin Smith, D.P.M., Ph.D., FACFAS, a podiatric physician and associate dean for clinical affairs for CPMS. “Each faculty member has a different area of expertise. In addition, they focus on providing a competency-based curriculum that emphasizes how well students can do a procedure. That type of curriculum is possible only because it’s taught by our faculty in courses and in Foot and Ankle.”

John Jaeger says his third-year rotations have strengthened his relationships with classmates and the CPMS faculty. “That has been a highlight of my clinical experience,” he notes. “Clinic has allowed students and faculty to collaborate in a great way by limiting the amount of students to three to four in a group with one faculty member. It creates a comfortable environment where I’m not afraid to get a question wrong because I know I’ll be able to work through the answer with my peers.”

Joshua Treimer, D.P.M.’22 (DMU Photo by Brett T. Roseman)

CPMS students go on to experience rotations with external hospitals and clinics, including in internal medicine and a non-podiatric specialty. Elective rotations are available in vascular surgery, pediatrics, global health, dermatology, orthopedics, emergency medicine, academic medicine and research.

“My favorite rotation thus far was probably internal medicine at Iowa Methodist Medical Center. It was a great opportunity to work with their attendings and residents, as well as another medical student from the University of Iowa,” says Joshua Treimer, D.P.M.’22. “Part of why I enjoyed it was the wide variety of cases we had ranging from acute heart failure to rat bite fever to COVID-19. It certainly increased my foundation for general medicine and gave me a healthy understanding of operations in the hospital setting.”

Many of the off-campus rotations are with CPMS alumni. Third-year student Michaela Heys, who calls her clinical experiences the “most exciting yet humbling time in my life thus far,” recently participated in surgeries with David Cain, D.P.M., a 2016 CPMS graduate and podiatric physician with the McFarland Clinic in Ames, IA.

Michaela Heys, D.P.M.’22 (DMU photo by Brett T. Roseman)

“The McFarland Clinic Podiatry Center brings about patients of all ages and walks of life, from children with growth plate issues, teenage athletes with stress fractures, young adults after a kitchen utensil accident, middle-aged patients with inflammation or bunion problems, all the way to elderly diabetics who seek routine care; no day or patient is ever the same,” she says.

“I know that all of these rotations DMU has set me up with are preparing me not only for next year’s rotations, but for a lifetime of practicing podiatric medicine – and I’m only halfway done,” she adds. “It is the greatest feeling to watch all of the classroom years spent poring over class notes, participating in research and participating in student clubs come to life in the real doctor world.”

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