Professionalism in Practice: An interview with Paul Scherer, DPM, MS and CEO
“Never limit yourselves. We place these encumbrances on ourselves. Diversification is the future. Don’t limit yourself to private practice. Don’t limit yourself to surgery. Sign up for different seminars, take different cases. Keep learning something new,” explained Paul Scherer, DPM, MS and CEO of ProLab Orthotics in Napa and Health Plans Organization of California.
Dr. Scherer, who has been in the field of podiatry for nearly 45 years, attributes his success to his ongoing passion for the profession and for learning. “I wish I didn’t get bored so easily, but at the same time I think it is important to continually change and evolve.”
Dr. Scherer a graduate of the California College of Podiatric Medicine in 1970, where he later received his Masters of Science in Podiatric Surgery in 1972 stated “When I graduated, there were only five, 2-year residencies and one 1-year residency at an accredited hospital. I was lucky enough to get one of the 2-year residencies at the California Podiatry Hospital. Today, the opportunities are much greater with over 230 residency training programs across the country. Dr. Scherer went on to a distinguished career that included teaching, private practice, chairing various podiatric departments, serving numerous academic and professional committee appointments, obtaining grants for research and publishing numerous scholarly articles and most recently a book entitled Recent Advances in Orthotic Therapy, which was reviewed and touted as “mandatory reading for all podiatric medical residents,” by Robert Phillips, DPM.
The podiatric profession, according to Dr. Scherer, has both exploded and retracted. “There is tremendous opportunity in podiatry. We have grown and have achieved parity with other medical specialties. I have seen our profession evolve from providing anecdotal diagnosis to scientific evidence-based medicine, which has elevated the overall quality of care for our patients.” On the other hand, he also sees that in expanding the curriculum to achieve that medical parity, some of the coursework, especially around biomechanics, has fallen out. “Things we used to teach in the second and third year are now taught in residency, and some things taught in residency are now learned during the practice experience.”
Dr. Scherer has always been interested in biomechanics as an essential part of podiatry. “There was a point early in my career when I had a chance to work with some of the leaders in our profession. They began exploring the idea that there was a mechanical origin to the pathologies we were treating, rather than congenital. This sparked a curiosity and intellectual pursuit that I have followed for the next 40 years.”
Oddly enough, despite the increase in understanding around the importance of biomechanics, there is a decline in the number of people trained in this area. “We currently have two faculty positions in biomechanics that have gone unfilled,” he explained. “In a time when I believe preventative and non-invasive approaches to medicine should be increasing, the lack of education in this area is leaving this gap. It is a missed opportunity.”
Dr. Scherer is board certified by both ABPM and ABFAS. “While ideally, in my opinion, these would someday be combined, right now it is not only important to obtain hospital privileges and insurance paneling, but it is also an important step in demonstrating professional competence, credibility and development,” he explained. “Start with securing your ABPM certification and then work towards your surgical certification, if needed.”
As an entrepreneur, Dr. Scherer points out the DPMs have an opportunity many other MDs have long been attuned to, and that his “working in industry.” This mean, starting companies or working with specialty companies in the industry such as orthotics, shoes, instrumentation, technology, etc. “I see unbelievable opportunity for our expertise in this industry.”
According to Scherer, seeking opportunity must always be balanced with professional ethics. Being ethical and providing his patients with the best care has driven both Dr. Scherer’s practice and the companies he has founded. “Dr. Robert Rutherford, often referred to as the father of podiatric surgery, shared something when I was a student that has always stuck with me. He said ‘Look to your left, look to your right, one of the three of you will be unhappy in your chosen profession because one of you isn’t going to do the kind of work you are capable of. You are going to cut corners, you aren’t going to care for your patients in the right way, and you aren’t going to do the right thing.’ I have remembered this wisdom and it has guided me in my professional career.” “Lastly, if there is one thing I have found, it is that if you are good at what you do, the money will follow.”
For a complete CV and more information on Dr. Scherer, visit http://www.prolaborthotics.com/About/OurFounderPaulRSchererDPM/tabid/184/Default.aspx