#T4DWest Day 3: Balancing the Gender Scale
Ladies stand up! Let’s balance the scale.
Today’s pendulum has swung in an unexpected direction. Recent statistics suggest only 29 percent of applicants applying to podiatry schools are female. This number continues to decline yearly…but why? Are women focused more on traditional allopathic/osteopathic routes to medicine? Are women choosing non-medically related professions? Are women simply not interested in becoming podiatrists?
For whatever reason, I’m reminded of what attracted me to the profession. I shadowed a female podiatrist 13 years ago and was pleasantly surprised that as a physician she was able to provide care to over 25 clinic patients, round on 3 hospital in-patients, and still make it on time to her 5 year old son’s soccer game. Surely her ability to multi-task and effectively manage her time were key, however podiatry offered her the ability to make medicine as laid back or as professionally aggressive as she desired. Having a glimpse at what I could become inspired me to do just that. The presence of women instructors during podiatric medical school and residency led me to believe if they could do it …so could I. And now as a medical staff member and the only female podiatric surgeon at my hospital, I am even more aware of the need to have others who look and sound like me visible.
As the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) and the American Association of Colleges of Podiatric Medicine (AACPM) strive to attract high quality applicants to podiatry schools and ensure podiatrists are universally accepted as physicians, there is also a need to make certain the profession maintains ethnic and gender diversity to better serve patient populations. In a health care field that is primarily male-driven, there are two very important roles I play as a woman podiatrist. Primarily, I am a patient advocate. Often female patients prefer to see female podiatrist who can appreciate their worries. This is not to say that a male podiatrist cannot do the same. Female patients have slightly different foot/ankle concerns that may go unnoticed to males (especially when it comes to aesthetics, shoes, functionality, and pursuing surgery) and sharing a female’s perspective simply makes the problem more relatable. Secondly, I’m charged with the role to lead by example. Just as my female predecessors inspired me, I aspire to motivate students, teach residents, and educate the community at-large on why podiatrists are the premiere specialist when it comes to foot and ankle care. Now that the playing field is leveled (referencing uniformity in podiatry school curriculums, 3-year standardized residency programs, and fellowship opportunities) women have the ability to take advantage of options not previously offered. Without a balanced gender infrastructure, how can we (podiatrist) project diversity in the health care realm?
After all, podiatrists keep the world moving one step at a time. Individuals deprived of proper foot and ankle care will find it difficult to walk, work, exercise, or maintain a functional lifestyle. We need more women to champion this cause and once accomplished the profession sustains a population of innovators, leaders, problem solvers, and effective podiatric physicians. The face of podiatry is changing …and it’s only changing for the better, but we need YOU!