While serving in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War era, Dr. Charles Southerland was a Special Forces Medic, a role that helped him develop a deep appreciation for the practice of medicine. Later, while on a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, he met a team of podiatrists who were caring for migrant farmers in the San Joaquin Valley in California. He was impressed with their work ethic and lifestyle – he saw that they were practicing medicine and enjoying the satisfaction that comes with delivering patients from pain, disease and deformity. Then, while an undergrad at Brigham Young University, he applied to podiatry and medical school. After being accepted to both, Dr. Southerland chose podiatry, a decision that he says has led to “lifelong contentment.” (Click here to read Dr. Southerland explain, in his own words, the experience that caused him to be very happy that he chose to practice Podiatric Medicine, instead of going to medical school.)
Dr. Southerland attended the California College of Podiatric Medicine, where he worked as an audio visual technician for his class during the day. At night, he worked as a security guard, a job that allowed him to study 6-8 hours during his shift, while getting up for 10-15 minutes every hour to make rounds and punch a Detex Clock.
After completing a first year podiatric surgical residency at Southeastern Medical Center, he completed a two year fellowship with Dr. Stephen Spinner. Toward the end his fellowship, Barry University School of Podiatric Medicine was starting its clinical program and Dr. Southerland was invited to be one of the first clinical faculty members at the school. He has been a professor at the Barry University School of Podiatric Medicine since 1987.
Through periodic sabbaticals – a privilege he says is one of the great perks of being a full time educator – Dr. Southerland has had the opportunity to expand his view of podiatry and appreciate how podiatric medicine fits in to a worldwide collaborative of providers for foot and ankle pathologies. Dr. Southerland’s diverse educational experiences include fellowship training with AO International in Switzerland, Podopediatrics at Hadassah Hospital System in Israel, Ilizarov Training at the Russian Ilizarov Scientific Center in Russia, and Ponsetti technique training with Dr. Ignacio Ponsetti at the University of Iowa.
When he looks back at his training, he credits hard work, carefully balanced finances and an active interest in technology as laying the groundwork for his approach to Podiatric Medicine. He’s also grateful for the privilege of working with some of medicine’s great minds and believes those experiences helped make him the podiatrist and educator he is today. His mentors include Dr. Stephen Spinner, Dr. Dock Dockery, Dr. Mary Crawford, Dr. Dan Hatch, Dr. Ignacio Ponsetti, Dr. Terrance Barry, Dr. Kieth Kashuk, Dr. Russel M. Nelson, Dr. James Stelnicki, and Dr. Eric Stelnicki.
Dr. Southerland originally sat for the boards when they were the ABPO boards in 1988. He then recertified with ABPOPPM in 1998 and most recently with ABPM in 2016. He also certified with what is now ABFAS in 1987 and has reassessed every ten years to keep his foot and ankle certification current. Over the years, he has served as an item writer, observer and oral examiner for the ABPM. He feels they have always set high standards for certification and offer a very worthy confirmation of academic excellence.
Dr. Southerland’s advice for residents is to “get the most you can out of your training – even if it means long hours and little sleep. Just remember it is an investment in a lifetime of practice to follow.” He also says that residency is the time to build a foundation for the person you would like to be, and recommends prioritizing family and faith. He also feels that taking good care of your patients will result in them taking good care of you.
When he reflects on his career, Dr. Southerland feels great pride in his former students/residents that go on to noteworthy achievements. He is also very proud of his accomplishments as the founder and program director of the Yucatan Crippled Children’s Project. Through this work, Dr. Southerland has seen many of the program’s beneficiaries grow up to be productive, capable members of their society – many of whom might have otherwise been prevented from attending school or obtaining jobs. Dr. Southerland feels strongly that no one can stand taller than those who will bend over to help a child.
In addition to the Yucatan Crippled Children Project and helping educate more than half the practicing podiatrists in the state of Florida, Dr. Southerland has served as elected Chair of the National Council of Faculties for the AACPM, and a local television medical commentator for first few months after 9/11/2001. Dr. Southerland was also among the first group of Podiatrists to go to Kurgan, Russia in October 2001 and learn Ilizarov technique at its source. He was also part of a group of physicians that attended to victims in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake.
On a more personal level, Dr. Southerland participates in the Everglades 300 challenge every year, a 300 mile kayak race on the west coast of Florida. However, his favorite hobby is being married to his wife Suzanne for more than 40. They have five “nervewrackingly wonderful” children and five grandchildren.
The Honor of our Life Derives from this
To Have a Certain Aim Before Us Always
Which Our Will Must Seek Amid the Peril of Uncertain Ways
Then, Though We Miss the Goal
Our Search is Crowned with Courage
And We Find Along Our Path
A Rich Reward of Unexpected Things
~ Henry Van Dyke