Early impressions Can Have Lasting Influence

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Dr. Nichol Salvo

When Dr. Nichol Salvo was in high school, she always thought she would practice oncology until an injury landed her in the podiatrist’s office.  “Dr. Greg Black showed me about the practice, the interesting blend of medicine and surgery and the opportunity to sub-specialize,”explained Salvo. “It was Dr. Black’s passion and enthusiasm for podiatry that changed my direction. He remains my mentor today.”

Dr. Salvo graduated from Ashland University with a degree in biology and then received her DPM from Kent State University College of Podiatric Medicine. While there, Salvo was extremely involved in the American Podiatric Medical Students Association (APMSA), serving as delegate of her class and student liaison to the PAC board of the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA). “I learned early to appreciate the important role APMA plays in the legislative process and why participation from every member is critical.” She feels that participating at a grassroots level or collectively as an organization is how change happens, and points to this kind of advocacy as the reason the profession of podiatry has evolved to where it is now.

Dr. Salvo’s three-year residency in Medicine and Surgery was at the Atlanta VA Medical Center. “I chose a VA residency program because I was deeply interested in wound care and limb salvage. I understood that podiatry college and residency training was a very limited time to learn as much as I could before I started practice and took advantage of as many educational opportunities afforded to me as possible,” she explained. “My residency program at the VA was busy, rigorous, and I had the opportunity to see and treat a large number of wound care and diabetic limb salvage patients.” Dr. Salvo explains that the veteran population is somewhat unique and often faces greater socioeconomic, psychosocial and co-morbid components than the private sector population. “I learned quickly that I had to consider the entire patient when developing a care plan and that it was equally important to bring in the right specialists to create an effective interdisciplinary approach to patient care – a concept I teach and write about even today.”

While Dr. Salvo feels her path was a bit circuitous, she sees that with each opportunity she learned something that would later be an important step in her career. “I entered private practice following my residency at the Atlanta VA, but then learned quickly that my practice was better served in the VA, and I returned to the VA system in Cleveland, Ohio for four years. I then took a role with APMA where I served as the Director of the Young Physicians Program for three years.” Interestingly enough, it was the skill and experience in administration, collaboration and advocacy she gained in that role that she feels prepared her most for her current role as Chief of Podiatry and Residency Program Director back at the Atlanta VA, where she started.

Dr. Salvo is dual boarded with both the American Board of Podiatric Medicine (ABPM) and the American Board of Foot and Ankle Surgery (ABFAS). “Residents need to remember that they have the privilege of completing a three-year comprehensive residency training program that allows them to become board-certified in both ABPM and ABFAS. The profession has worked for decades to advance podiatry, where the education and training is equitable to allopathic medicine,”explains Salvo.

“In the past, many podiatrists didn’t have the opportunity to complete residency training and those who did, still couldn’t sit for both boards.” Dr. Salvo believes all PMSR graduates should sit for both ABPM and ABFAS qualification examinations. “ABPM certification increases my credibility and demonstrates to the medical community at large that I am competent in medicine. With the dual certification, it demonstrates that I can comprehensively care for my patient medically and surgically to the extent of my scope and licensure,” she explains.

Along her impressive path, Dr. Salvo has collected a long list of accolades and publications, most recently the Kent State University College of Podiatric Medicine Young Physicians Professional Achievement Award. As a well-respected practitioner, she also recently co-authored, with a vascular surgeon and plastic surgeon with whom Dr. Salvo works, an article entitled Promoting Limb Salvage through Multi-Disciplinary Care of the Diabetic Patient published in the July 2017 issue of Current Treatment Options in Cardiovascular Medicine.

Dr. Salvo is a big advocate for publishing, especially during your residency training. “Research and publication not only advance our profession, but it is also a career builder. I know from personal experience that it is much easier to draft papers under the guidance of a mentor than to do this on your own once you enter practice. Take advantage of your teaching faculty during residency and publish with them,” she advises.

Dr. Salvo emphasizes that residency training is challenging, but rewarding, and shares some wisdom that may have a lasting impression on current or future residents. “I never expect my residents to do anything that I don’t expect of myself. If you are in residency training, understand that this is a three-year period of rigor and discomfort. It will not be gentle nor passive.  It is intended to develop you into a physician who can manage any medical challenge or complication presented before you. Embrace the discomfort and labor that comes with your residency education. Every experience, every patient interaction, every article you read, develops you and will improve you as a practitioner and as a surgeon. You will never have this opportunity ever again,” says Salvo. “Be reminded of your fortune to complete a comprehensive program and take advantage of all opportunities afforded.”

Once in practice, Dr. Salvo says it is important to stay as involved and engaged with the profession as possible. In addition to being the residency program director and routinely publishing, Dr. Salvo is becoming more active with the Council on Podiatric Medical Education (CPME), serving as an on-site residency evaluator and as a a member of the Society for Vascular Surgery (SVS) where she works closely with vascular surgery colleagues, with patient care and publications. She is active and loyal to APMA through her component society, Federal Services Podiatric Medical Association (FSPMA), serving on the Board of Directors and as a delegate to the APMA House of Delegates.

“During residency, I could have never imagined the path my career would take. I have learned that career decisions are never easy and sometimes developing your career requires relocating or stepping out of your comfort zone for a short time “but it is worth it.”

In her spare time, Dr. Salvo is a devoted mother to her 8-year-old daughter who she says “keeps her grounded and reminds her of happiness in simple things.” She also loves to run and play trumpet but admits, right now at least, she has little time for either.