The Path to Podiatry with Dr. Londono

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PMY 510: The Path to Podiatry with Dr. Londono

Session 510

Dr. Elisabeth Londono shares her journey as a podiatrist and as an immigrant. Being a podiatrist is as close to being an MD or DO as you can get without actually having those letters after your name. But a lot of people go into podiatry because they think they can’t get into medical school. They do it as a backup plan, when instead, you really should be chasing your dreams, if being an MD or DO is what you really want to be. In Elisabeth’s case, she talks about what it’s like to be a podiatrist and why she chose this career path.

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[04:44] Her Interest in Healthcare

Elisabeth’s dad was a doctor. At 13 years old, she was sent by her parents to Ohio coming from Senegal, and obviously, one of her major challenges during this transition was adjusting to the cold. Culturally, she didn’t feel she was able to adjust. Plus, she had to leave her parents at such a young age that she sort of resented them for pushing her away.

Being a daddy’s girl, she wanted him to be proud of her. Coming to the U.S. university as an international student, she went on a full basketball scholarship ride. She played only one year of high school in the U.S. and got a full ride basketball to go to college.

That also meant she had to keep a certain GPA, especially because she was on a full ride. So there was that added pressure to train for basketball, at the same time, to do well in school.

Aware that medicine was her priority, Elisabeth settled with a Division II in basketball. And she knew her parents didn’t want her path to medicine to be compromised. That being said, basketball kept her mentally fit, something very important in medicine.

[16:57] Her Interest in Podiatry

She finished undergrad because she was still young, she was waiting for the citizenship paperwork. While waiting, she decided to apply for a biomedical science  master’s program.

Upon finishing the program, at the time she was married with a baby, she happened to pass by a podiatry clinic and decided to check it out. After meeting the podiatrist there, she was just blown away by the field. Since then, she never considered anything else.

It’s interesting how many physicians choose their career based on their mentors. As for Elisabeth, it was because of that podiatrist she met who also became her mentor.

She got exposed to the field through her master’s program having studied with other PA students and podiatry students, it was because of that interaction with the mentor that motivated her to go down a similar path.

The only time she considered medicien was when she did a rotation in anesthesia. But she didn’t like the idea of people passing away and then she had to go on with her life like nothing happened.

[22:37] What is a Podiatrist?

A podiatrist is a foot and ankle specialist. They handle anything to do with the knee and below – from the skin all the way to the bone. You are the vascular doctor, the ortho, the dermatologist, and neurologist of the lower extremity.

What she likes most about her practice is the variety of cases she gets to do. One day, she can take care of the skin, another day, she could take care of the bone. So there is a broad range of problems that she can fix.

'I love the flexibility in hours and the flexibility of choosing how busy you want to be or how not so busy you want to be.'Click To Tweet

Podiatry school is basically medical school, but it’s a podiatric medical school. It’s a weird dichotomy. At the end of the day, we have to respect each other’s titles, as Elisabeth points out.

[26:34] The Training Path

Training wise, the podiatric medical school takes four years. Most podiatric, if not all, podiatric medical schools require all the same prereqs as as traditional MD or DO school. Most schools require MCAT. It’s the same kind of preclinical years and clinical years.

Historically, you’re also required to do at least one year of surgical residency. You can opt to not do surgery at all when you get out. But for you to have the title, you are required. In 2022, every single podiatry graduate is required to do at least three years of surgical residency.

[27:52] Why Specialist, Not Surgeon

When asked why they’re called specialists instead of surgeons, Elisabeth explains that it’s because not all podiatrists choose to do surgery. There are some that will do wound care only. Like when she was working at a nursing home, she would do palliative care or just dispense diabetic shoes, orthotics, and things of that nature.

She adds that the scope of practice varies from state to state. She stuck with the foot and ankle and decided to stay in Florida because they have the highest scope of practice.

Many podiatrists choose their state based on where they went to school because they have access to their contacts and their mentors. Currently, there are only nine podiatric medical schools in the country. 

As an athlete, Elisabeth’s residency program was the only one that had a fellowship in Sports Medicine in Podiatrics. Her father was a pediatrician and so she chose that residency program for that reason. And it wasn’t just a fellowship in sports medicine. But the director of the fellowship was the team podiatrist for the Miami Heat.

Moreover, Elisabeth thinks institutions make us feel there’s only one little portion in all of us and we have to share it when everyone can actually just work together. Sometimes, it’s a matter of them taking the time to know who you are, and what your qualifications are. Then they will usually relax about it.

'I will not have control over how people behave. But I always have 100% control over how I will behave.'Click To Tweet

[35:21] Final Words of Wisdom

Elisabeth gives credit to being an athlete because she learned discipline from the sport. And every part of her journey has molded her to become a good podiatrist and a good wife and mother. Ultimately, regardless of what path you take – MD, DO, podiatry, or whatever – you can do it as long as you love it.

Finally, being a woman, a mom, an international student, and an immigrant in medicine, Elisabeth’s wants to encourage those who are on the path similar to hers is to just be authentic. Be who you are.


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