Practice Perfect 707
Graduation in the Time of a Pandemic

Here at the Western University College of Podiatric Medicine, it’s graduation time. We held a very nice online graduation and oath ceremony, made possible through the hard work of our Office of Student Affairs. Despite the challenges, difficulties, and unfamiliarity of an online graduation, they created a program as special as it could be. The same is true throughout the country where our young podiatric colleagues-to-be are completing the first step of their education and are about to begin the next big step: residency. To all of you graduating, I send my congratulations!

Now, each year I try to communicate a few pieces of very unsolicited advice to our incoming residents, and I will continue that tradition with today’s Practice Perfect. For those of you about to start your programs, consider today’s edition to be called Residency Perfect. Yes, there’s a best way to go through your residency, and there are pitfalls that can make it less than perfect. Most of those pitfalls are attitudinal and behavioral. Here’s some advice from a prior podiatric student and resident and a current teacher and residency program director.

  1. You earned it - Yes, you may feel like an imposter during those first few days and weeks of your training, but never forget that you earned your position. You’re a doctor and not a faker. Not everyone did what you accomplished, and you belong where you are.
  2. You must prove yourself every day - You may have earned your residency position, but that doesn’t mean you have permission to sit back on your laurels and not work your hardest. When you’re on a non-podiatric rotation, show how good you are, how educated, hardworking, and part of the team you are. Remember, your residency attendings are giving their time and patients to your education. They don’t have to do this, and it would be easier for them not to. They are giving you a gift. The way to reciprocate that gift is to be prepared, focused, driven, and productive. Go the extra step to speak to the attending before a case; be an active participant in your education; help your attendings successfully care for their patients. Remember, that you have to earn the knife. It shouldn’t be given freely.
  3. Learn everything you can - Three years might seem like a long time now, but I promise, it’s a blink of an eye. That means the quality resident takes advantage of every opportunity to learn. Every encounter is a chance to learn something, even if you’re trimming toenails. If you want to be at home at 5PM, remember that if you’re not seeing patients, then you’re missing chances to learn.
  4. Look for your deficiencies - Every academic session is an opportunity to test your knowledge and find the holes – and rest assured there are holes in your knowledge. Keep a list. Take notes on what your attendings teach. Analyze your performance on your cases and look for areas of deficiency. These are the areas on which to focus.
  5. The most important thing - The single most important aspect of your training is to take care of every patient as if they’re your family. It’s difficult, it may not always be rewarding in the moment, but it’s your primary charge as a doctor. Patients are not diagnoses. It’s not “the heel pain patient in room 10.” It’s “Mr Smith in room 10 suffering from left heel pain.” It’s especially difficult in this time of isolation, but that makes it even more important to focus on these other human beings, all with complex lives, hopes, dreams, and fears. They’re often in pain and trying to deal with it, and it’s your responsibility and privilege to be their doctor. The patients may be the primary responsibility of your attending, but you’re no less responsible to advocate for their care and well-being than any other part of the team.

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Being a podiatric physician is an amazing profession. Each of us is privileged to be part of it, and it’s now your responsibility to make the most of your education. Congratulations on your graduation. This pandemic reaffirms the importance of being a healthcare provider, and you are part of that team now.

Best wishes.

Jarrod Shapiro, DPM
PRESENT Practice Perfect Editor

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