For many students, the desire to become a doctor is apparent early on. "I decided I wanted to be a doctor at the age of ten. At that time, I wasn't familiar with all of the specialties in medicine. I thought about delivering babies or becoming a dermatologist," said Kirstyn Caldwell, DPM, Captain, United States Air Force. She never strayed from her desire of becoming a doctor and she ultimately discovered podiatric medicine. She realized serving in the military worked hand-in-hand with podiatric medicine.
Dr. Caldwell was a three-sport athlete throughout high school and college. While in her first year of college at Bethany College in, Bethany, West Virginia, Caldwell suffered a broken bone in her foot. In light of her injury, Dr. Caldwell considered sports medicine but also pondered other medical professions. "Over the next 2-3 years of college, I considered almost every medical field--allopathic, osteopathic, and even physician assistant fields. It came to the point where I considered taking a year off before applying to medical school because I wanted to make sure I was making the right choice."
Dr. Caldwell hadn't considered podiatric medicine until her pre-med advisor suggested she looked into the profession. She shadowed at a podiatrist's office for two weeks in Wheeling, West Virginia, and was instantly hooked. "I loved the idea of being able to specialize and handle anything that came through the door, from sports injuries to surgery. I wanted to learn about the field immediately."
A graduate of the Ohio College of Podiatric Medicine, Dr. Caldwell completed her three-year podiatric medicine and surgery residency program at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in Pittsburgh. "My residency experience was very difficult, yet rewarding. My program had the balance of academics and surgical diversity I was looking for. It also gave me the sense of 'family'; I knew I could count on my fellow residents, faculty, and hospital community for support-and that was very important to me."
After residency, Dr. Caldwell entered private practice as an associate. However, she discovered the private practice lifestyle wasn't a good fit and decided to explore other options. "One of my friends is in the Air Force and she worked with an active duty podiatrist in her residency. After a long and informative conversation with him, I knew that this could be an amazing opportunity-I can serve my country while doing what I enjoy, practicing podiatric medicine, and travel the world."
This year will mark four years since residency and Dr. Caldwell is now the chief of podiatry services at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. "Military practice is definitely different than private practice because you now have two careers; officer and podiatrist. Private practice helped me realize how much of the residency environment I missed and my military practice provides many of those attributes." Her days are filled with treating active duty men and women and their families, surgery, basic military training, and administrative responsibilities.
Dr. Caldwell has given several presentations to students about podiatric medicine. She often has this message: "If you are interested in providing a service that will completely enhance the quality of life, you should consider podiatric medicine." Dr. Caldwell is able to provide this service every day, and she's proud to serve her country as a podiatric physician.
For more information on careers in podiatry, contact APMA or call 301-581-9281.