Editor’s note: After working at DMU for the past 28 years, including more than two decades as dean of the College of Podiatric Medicine and Surgery, Robert Yoho, D.P.M., M.S., FACFAS, will retire as dean at the end of this academic year. William Bui Tran, D.P.M.’23, M.S.A.’23, interviewed Yoho for an article, excerpted here with permission, that appeared Jan. 1, 2021, in Hallux Magazine, an online publication.
“I have one speed, full,” Yoho told Bui Tran. “It’s time to tap the brakes.”
Tell me about your background and how you became dean.
After finishing residency, I entered private practice in Pennsylvania. I really enjoyed private practice. But, before podiatric medicine, after receiving my master’s degree in biology/microbiology from Duquesne University, I worked as a research assistant at University of Pittsburgh Schools of Medicine and Public Health in the area of non-small cell lung cancer. After seven years of private practice, I reached a point that I would be disappointed in myself if I did not use those research skills I had developed. So I made the decision to enter into academic medicine.
I liked the idea where podiatric medical students take the same basic science curriculum as osteopathic medical students. I thought that was the future model for podiatric medical education. Turns out it was. That is what attracted me to Des Moines University.
In 1993, I started as a faculty member. I was appointed dean in 1997 by Dr. Richard Ryan, president of DMU at that time. I consider Dr. Ryan to be one my most influential mentors.
How is DMU CPMS 20 years ago versus now?
When I arrived at DMU, the college had only graduated eight classes. The college was still trying to find its identity and make its mark as a contributing academic program to DMU. I’m a believer you need to prove to your colleagues that you have an exceptional academic program through academic performance, exceptional outcomes and assimilating into the organization’s systems. That takes time, but the opportunity was there.
Early on I noticed there was a clear distinction made between the osteopathic and the podiatric medical students at the basic science faculty level. Fast-forward to where we are today – the basic science faculty view the first-year class as medical students that include both D.O. and D.P.M. students. I think that is a strong indicator of our progress.
What achievements of the college are you most proud of?
Our graduates have assumed leadership positions in our state and national professional organizations and as officers in the medical systems where they are on staff. Open our peer-reviewed journals, and there are many CPMS alums publishing excellent clinical studies.
I am very proud of the collaborative effort that resulted in the residency program at Iowa Methodist Medical Center, the six-figure gift from Bako Diagnostics in establishing the Bako Classroom and Clinical Skills Lab and establishing the endowed Becky Stills Scholarship, with the total amount raised and awarded exceeding $300,000.
When Dr. Ryan asked me to also serve as vice president for academic administration until DMU made a decision on a provost position, working with faculty and administrative leadership, we removed DMU from the AAUP Censure List, implemented centralized admissions and assisted COM in gaining approval for the master of science programs in anatomy and biomedical sciences.
Where do you see the future of podiatric medicine?
If we are to advance as a profession, it is terribly critical to make advancements in the quality of our education across the continuum (podiatric medical school, residency, fellowship and CME).
As a profession, we keep trying to compare ourselves to M.D.s and D.O.s. Hoping those professions acknowledge we are like them is most likely not going to happen. Even those professions cite differences with each other. I don’t know that making that comparison will have the anticipated yield. If you deliver an excellent education and podiatric physicians provide the highest quality of care, that’s all the public, other health professions and legislators care about. That is where our focus should be.