Posted on March 16, 2020by Stephanie Hook, DPM

Everywhere you turn, people have their opinions and thoughts on what your future should hold. Surely, your peers, residency director, attendings, friends and family all have your best interests in mind. All this input can become overwhelming and cause decision-making to become more difficult. You already must decide if you will specialize within podiatry, where you want to live, if you want to join a group or be a solo practitioner, and so much more. On top of all of that, deciding which board examination to take can cause your head to be left absolutely spinning.

When I started residency, before three-year programs were the norm, I did not want to be a surgeon. I matched in a two-year program at Catholic Health System/Sisters of Charity Hospital in Buffalo, New York. I was excited to start my career journey at a program that was well recognized and accepted within the hospital. I loved everything I was doing and could not wait to get into my own office and start helping patients. I loved the “routine” care. I even often stated that one of the things I loved most was when patients came in, I could treat them, and send them home feeling better. Personally, I think seeing how you were able to help someone immediately was gratifying. I thought that was the ideal career path for me.

Becoming a Surgeon

Imagine my surprise when, within one week of surgery rotation, I was hooked. I knew I needed to be a surgeon. I don’t recall exactly when, but early in my residency, my director asked if I would be interested in completing a third year. I jumped at the chance to get even more surgical exposure and training. I then completed my three-year residency, learning surgery from podiatric and orthopedic attending physicians.

After completing my residency, I joined a podiatric practice in Central New York. At the time, there were eight podiatrists within the group that covered eleven offices in the greater Syracuse area. My practice picked up quickly and I worked hard building my practice and my reputation. Within a couple of months in practice, my surgical volume soared. I was doing cases as often as I wanted, but still spending many hours a week in the office. It was the perfect balance for me. This was the life I was meant to have. As my time in the group continued, I became a part of four area hospitals and also began volunteering on some New York State Podiatric Medical Association committees. Eight years into practice, I had wonderful patients, loved my job, and loved my life.

How could it get any better from there? Three years ago, I was asked to join an orthopedic practice. I am part of an extremely large group, again in the greater Syracuse area. While they were originally looking to hire a non-surgical podiatrist, I asked for that to change. I had performed surgery for eight years while building my reputation and patient relationships and didn’t want to sacrifice my current state of practice. I dramatically increased the number of patients seen every week in this new group, and I am an appreciated colleague in an amazing company. The support I have is so meaningful. It allows me to grow as a podiatrist, but also gives me the opportunity to spread my wings. Since joining my company, I have kept my same surgical volume, increased my office visits, and have still had time to become more involved. I am now able to serve our great profession as a Trustee of the New York State Podiatric Medical Association, the Chair of the Public Education and Information Committee of the NYSPMA, and as the Student Chapter Coordinator of the American Association for Women Podiatrists. I also serve the ABPM as a Membership Committee Sub-Chair, working with Crisis Communication and Audit Committee. I still am affiliated with four hospitals and now also serve as the Podiatry Division Chief at Upstate Medical University Community Campus. In my thirteenth year of practice since graduating residency, I have shaped my career to be exactly what I have hoped it could be.

One thing I have not mentioned yet is that I am single-boarded. To keep this story as honest and forthcoming as possible, I originally decided to take a single board because I have test-taking anxiety. The decision of which board to take was extremely simple for me. When reviewing both boards, I found the American Board of Podiatric Medicine certification to be more comprehensive. Just because surgery isn’t in the name does not mean that it is excluded from the certification. I also examined what the boards are doing to help further our profession. I have personally witnessed the ABPM work tirelessly to promote its members and our profession, which is yet another value I receive with my certification.

The Value of ABPM Certification

I believe my ABPM certification to be better for me as it is all-inclusive. I also find that it is a more understandable and recognizable name for my patients. There will be plenty of patients who will be dead set against the idea of surgery. There are, of course, plenty who do desire surgery. I believe that the simple statement “Certified by the American Board of Podiatric Medicine” conveys to both of these patients that I am accomplished and recognized in my field- which is podiatry. All podiatry. In the years since achieving my ABPM certification, I have tossed around the idea of sitting for my surgical boards but have elected not to do so. I have seen no negative impact on myself, my career, or my patients from my decision.

At the end of the day, you have to do what is best for you. I can tell you that I would not change my choices. I am proud to be a Diplomate of the American Board of Podiatric Medicine. As I stated earlier, I am simply sharing my story so you can see how your choices are simply that- YOUR choices. Choose the board(s) that make sense for you, your career, and your patients.