Most students who are interested in pursuing a career in medicine take the necessary steps to achieve this goal—take appropriate classes, study hard, volunteer, shadow a doctor, and the list goes on. It was no different for Sara Suttle, DPM, chief of residents at Kingwood Medical Center in, Kingwood, Texas. However, she decided to add an extra step to this process.
After graduating from high school, Dr. Suttle joined the Air Force Reserve to train and work as a surgical technician. "I knew entering the military [as a scrub technician] would give me the opportunity to explore the various medical fields." She was right. Dr. Suttle scrubbed in with many surgical teams including cardiology, plastic surgery, and orthopedics. She was immediately drawn to orthopedics because of the nature of the field: treatment of injuries to the musculoskeletal system, such as broken bones and joint problems. However, the potential physical demands on women orthopedists did not appeal to her. "The thought of doing a hip or shoulder adjustment on a 350-pound man, for example, seemed overwhelming to me. Physically I'm tough, but not that tough!" Dr. Suttle discovered working with feet was comparable to orthopedics and it was a more manageable part of the body.
Dr. Suttle was able to use her skills as a scrub technician to further investigate her areas of interest. "I remained in the Air Force Reserve while attending University of Texas, San Antonio. Even with my busy schedule, I took every opportunity to scrub in on surgeries of a podiatrist and a foot and ankle orthopedist." She was able to ask questions about each of their professions, and with careful consideration, decided podiatric medicine was a perfect fit for her. "I liked what I observed in the operating room and the different surgical techniques used. But ultimately, it was the lifestyle podiatrists possessed that appealed to me. This is a great field where I can do what I want, including pediatrics, wound care, and biomechanics." Dr. Suttle is very happy with her decision and has never looked back.
A graduate of Dr. William M. Scholl College of Podiatric Medicine at the Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, Dr. Suttle has entered the third year of her podiatric medicine and surgical residency program at Kingwood Medical Center. "I am grateful for all of the experiences I've received as a scrub technician in the Air Force Reserve. It has prepared me in more ways than one for my rigorous residency training."
While students may not be able to achieve the same level of medical career exploration as Dr. Suttle, she suggests students interested in learning about podiatric medicine should immerse themselves in all aspects of the profession: shadow a podiatrist in a clinic and/or hospital setting, and visit and/or talk to a representative from one of the nine colleges of podiatric medicine. And to gain better insight into podiatric medical education, students should talk to their college advisors. "The more research you are able to conduct, the better prepared you will be. I'm grateful for discovering podiatric medicine the way I did. It has paid off and I'm looking forward to the next chapter in my life."
For more information on careers in podiatry, contact APMA or call 301-581-9281.