New WUCPM Program Prepares Podiatrists for the Future with Full Curriculum Equivalency
Most major events in Kathy Satterfield’s life have happened by chance.
As a young newspaper reporter, she wasn’t looking to change careers but a chance meeting with some podiatrists who did diabetic wound care made her reconsider. After work each night, she returned to a college campus to take the science courses she needed to apply.
In her interview for admission to podiatric medical school, she met Dr Leonard Levy who would be a lifelong mentor, steering her toward a career in academic medicine.
Years later, as a resident at the West Haven VAMC/Yale program, she met attending Dr Gary Jolly, who became a surgical mentor and close friend. Together they authored an article about a rotation flap that he developed but he insisted that her name be listed as first author. Another chance event that resulted in the “Satterfield-Jolly Flap,” which is in textbooks and taught at seminars.
Fast forward almost 35 years and it seems to have happened again. Kathy and her husband, Tim, had decided to retire. They traveled back home to Texas to look for a retirement property, settling on a little Cape Cod-style home in the heart of San Antonio. But when she returned in California, the provost called her into his office for a frank conversation about what the college needed. He asked if she would consider taking the job of dean and putting off retirement for a few more years.
A few years before, she had considered vying for the position but the Satterfields had just learned that a seemingly benign problem with Tim’s health had turned out actually to be a Stage 4 squamous cell carcinoma, with a poor 5-year success rate. Chances were that in five years, Tim, Satterfield’s husband of over 43 years would not be living. All of their energy went into his healthcare, as they sought cutting edge therapy in clinical trials at the City of Hope. Now, three years later, Tim is in remission after receiving immune checkpoint therapy, designed around the discovery that won Dr James Allison the 2018 Nobel Prize for Medicine.
“I didn’t say yes right away. I wanted to get the buy-in of Tim and my brother and his wife. We had planned on gathering the family back together in retirement and now I was proposing to delay that for a few more years.”
Her family was even more excited about the possibility than she was, if that was possible. Tim said, “I had been hoping that Kathy would end her career on a high note. Maybe a special award but then this happened and it seemed so right. I’m very proud of her!”
But Dr Satterfield and the founders of the Western University College of Podiatric Medicine (WUCPM), Drs Lawrence Harkless and Lester Jones, had started something important along with a dedicated core of faculty and she wanted to complete it. Although the search committee had identified several excellent potential candidates, the provost was concerned that the completion of the dream might be lost if it wasn’t continued by someone intimately familiar with accreditation and academic inner workings.
WUCPM was started with the concept of educating a physician first and then a specialist. Dr Jones often reminded doubters that an orthopedic surgeon or an internist don’t become those specialists until they reach their residency programs. Why should podiatry be any different?
An orthopedic surgeon or an internist don’t become those specialists until they reach their residency programs. Why should podiatry be any different?
Back in the day when a graduate could change out of their graduation robe and open up a private practice the next day, without any additional training, it was different. Podiatrists needed to be practice-ready on Day One after graduation. Now each graduate will complete a three-year, hospital-based residency program before getting to that same point of opening an office. The hand off is astronomically different.
“The profession was suspicious about our plan,” Satterfield said. “But when I look at how well our students do, I know why we have gained the profession’s confidence.” She is speaking of the board scores and residency placement rates. In the history of the college 224 of the 225 graduates have earned a residency program. And the first seating for those board exams that concentrate on podiatric medicine, surgery and biomechanics – Part 2 APMLE – are consistently high. (94% over the College’s history and 100% for the past two years. ) As for the clinical skills physical exam board, a day of seeing standardized patients – 12 – to do a history and physical and SOAP note, not one CPM student has ever taken the board and failed. Not one.
“I think we are doing something right.”
Occasionally you will read in a blog that a DPM can’t reach for parity because they don’t do some element of the allopathic or osteopathic curriculum – whether it be reproductive medicine, or psychiatry. That is why the WUCPM students do all of those courses, taking the same exams as do their DO colleagues.
It is interesting that there is a pathway for a DDS or DMD to become an Oral Maxillofacial MD while the dental curriculum has drifted away, in most schools, from the medical basis it once had. In their place the DPMs at the newer schools of podiatric medicine have come closer. At WUCPM, the students are embedded in 94% of the DO curriculum. The only course they do not share is Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine. In its place the students take podiatric medicine.
“If you think about it, much of the curriculum presented in traditional colleges actually has a place in the general medical curriculum. Onychomycosis? In derm. Venous stasis disease? In cardio. And on and on.”
It has been rewarding to hear news of our graduates performing as physicians in their residency programs – being the doctor who successfully ran a full code on a patient, another who insisted that a patient had a bowel obstruction and saved her life because of his insistence, another who delivered a baby in the emergency department. Just as an intern in orthopedics, or internal medicine or endocrinology would have. “Become a strong physician first and then concentrate on your specialty,” she concludes.