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20 Questions: Jarrod Shapiro, DPM

Created December 22, 2011 by Juliet Farmer
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Dr. Jarrod Shapiro, a practicing podiatrist at the patient clinic at Western University of Health Sciences, College of Podiatric Medicine in Pomona, California, is also a staff physician at both Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center (Pomona, California) and Arrowhead Regional Medical Center (Colton, California).

He completed his doctor of podiatric medicine at California School of Podiatric Medicine, Samuel Merritt College in Oakland, California did both his primary podiatric medical and his podiatric surgery residencies at Botsford General Hospital in Michigan. Prior to his current employers, Dr. Shapiro worked as a staff physician at two Oregon facilities: Mountain View Hospital in Madras, and Pioneer Memorial Hospital in Prineville, as well as two in Lansing, Michigan: Sparrow Hospital, and Ingham Regional Medical Center.

Dr. Shapiro, who has extensive experience in foot and ankle reconstructive surgery, biomechanics, diabetic limb loss prevention, and wound care, earned the 2011 Faculty of the Year Award from Western University of Health Sciences. He is a syndicated columnist with Podiatry Management Magazine, and a peer reviewer for Journal of Foot & Ankle Surgery, Journal of the American Podiatric Medical Association, and Foot and Ankle Specialist. Dr. Shapiro is also current president of the Inland Empire component of the California Podiatric Medical Association.

When did you first decide to become a podiatrist? Why?
I decided to become a podiatrist while in college. After I took an introductory anatomy class, I realized how interested I was in the biological sciences. I knew I wanted to be a doctor of some sort, so I spoke with my premed guidance counselor. She recommended podiatry as a possible career. As I researched the profession, I found it to be the right career for me. First, as a sufferer of daily foot pain myself, I would have a unique perspective about my patients. Second, I liked the intellectual and social variety of podiatry. I also enjoyed the fact that I could have a personal life outside of my career. When I put all of these factors together, I knew podiatric medicine would be an excellent match.

How/why did you choose the podiatric medical school you went to?
I chose the school I attended because it was reasonably close to family. I also wanted a strong academic program that would provide me the opportunity to compete strongly for any residency in the country. I would recommend prospective students visit and interview at more than one school to find the program that best fits their desires and personalities.

What surprised you the most about podiatric medical school?
I was most surprised at first by the amount of work necessary to be successful. I thought I had studied a lot in college, but it was nothing compared to the amount of time I had to dedicate to podiatric medical school. It was like being hit by a tsunami. The sheer amount of information was incredible. No student seems to understand just how much work is necessary until they’ve gone through about three weeks of podiatric medical school. I advise students to be ready to put in every minute of time possible to study.

If you had it to do all over again, would you still become a podiatrist? (Why or why not? What would you have done instead?) Has being a podiatrist met your expectations? Why?
If I had to do it all over again I definitely would still become a podiatric physician. I love my job and all of the opportunities it provides me. My expectations have been exceeded by my career thus far. Initially, I pictured myself working in a single provider office, seeing patients every day, and doing surgery. My career has evolved over the last five years into something so much more broad and rich.

What do you like most about being a podiatrist?
This is hard to answer because there are so many parts I like. I’m emotionally satisfied when I see the look on a patient’s face after I’ve successfully treated their medical conditions. The look of sheer relief on a patient’s face when they no longer suffer from pain is an incredible reward to me. I’m intellectually satisfied when I see an unusual medical condition or deal with a complex patient. Over the past year and a half, I’ve been teaching at Western University of Health Sciences, College of Podiatric Medicine in Pomona, Calif., and I’ve found educating students to be one of the richest and most satisfying parts of my job.

What do you like least about being a podiatrist?
This one’s easy: dealing with medical insurance. Unfortunately, in the United States, where private health insurance is such a significant player, I have to spend too much of my clinical time and energy working in a system that is run by administrators and accountants. Declining reimbursements have been the rule, which drives too many good doctors out of medicine. Anyone entering the medical profession, whether as a podiatrist or any other healthcare provider, will have to deal with this part as well.

How much of your time is spent teaching/seeing patients/doing research? Can you change that mix if you want to?
My time is currently split about 50% teaching, 40% seeing patients, and about 10% doing research and administrative work. My own research is clinically oriented, so that allows me to do research while seeing patients. The mix of patients a typical podiatric physician sees varies by type of practice. As an academic physician, I spend a greater amount of time teaching. When I was employed in private practice, the vast majority of my time was spent seeing patients. Various other options are available with a different mix.

Describe a typical day at work.
For me, there’s no such thing as a typical day. My typical week is spent doing any of the following combinations of activities: teaching students in lectures or small groups, doing workshops, teaching students and residents in clinic, performing surgical procedures at hospitals, seeing patients in clinic, doing various administrative activities, writing, and doing research. Various other activities, such as speaking engagements and screening events, also crop up periodically.

Do you work with mid-level providers, and if so, what kind(s)?
During my career thus far, I have worked with all levels of providers, including various specialist and primary care physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, technicians, medical assistants, physician assistants, and physical therapists, among others.

On average: How many hours a week do you work? How many hours do you sleep per night? How many weeks of vacation do you take?
My average work day is about 7a.m. to 5 p.m. with an average week of 50 to 60 hours. I sleep on average eight hours per night. I receive four weeks per year of paid vacation on average, besides healthcare coverage and other benefits. I also have sick time available when necessary.

Are you satisfied with your income?
Since I don’t make as much money as Donald Trump, I’m not satisfied! However, realistically I am very comfortable with my current income, which allows me the ability to save money while having discretionary income to spend on various past times and my family. My children do not want for anything. A podiatric physician’s salary is enough for a comfortable and far above the average lifestyle.

If you took out educational loans, is/was paying them back a financial strain?
I took out the maximum financial aid loans available while in school and am currently paying them back. Although I’d love to have the extra money in my bank account every month, I don’t feel any financial strain from my loans.

In your position now, knowing what you do – what would you say to yourself 10 years ago?
I would say to my 10-years-ago-self, “Keep working hard, stay the course, and everything will be just fine.”

What information/advice do you wish you had known when you were beginning podiatric medical school?
I would like to have known more about the option for podiatric fellowships. At the time I was training, there were an increasing number of advanced fellowships that provided further training post-residency. The numbers of these excellent fellowship programs has only increased since I’ve graduated. I didn’t do a fellowship, but I would have liked to have done one, if only for the ability to sub specialize into a niche field within podiatry and because of my interest in the scientific aspect of my profession. For example, research fellowships are available that would have better prepared me for an academic career.

From your perspective, what is the biggest problem in healthcare today?
As I mentioned, the healthcare “industry” in the United States is a problem. Our current system is not sustainable, and it seems the only way our leaders have to reduce costs is to reduce physician reimbursement. Since medicine is a human pursuit requiring well-trained, focused, and caring physicians, it seems ridiculous to continually short those people who are your most important asset. Too many doctors today have to spend too much time worrying how to keep their practices running instead of focusing on their patients.

Where do you see podiatry in 10 years?
I see podiatry as a vibrant, healthy medical specialty, with complete parity with other physician specialties, as the leader in foot and ankle care, and functioning as an integral member of the interprofessional healthcare team.

What types of outreach/volunteer work do you do, if any?
As with my faculty partners at Western University, I do community outreach work several times per year.

How do you spend your free time? Any hobbies?
I have a six-year-old son and a daughter on the way, so I have little time for hobbies. However, I enjoy martial arts (Karate) and reading about medical history (a personal fascination of mine). I also enjoy listening to music and occasionally going to the movies.

Anything else you’d care to add?
I would urge anyone who’s even vaguely interested to look into podiatric medicine as a career option. The opportunities to have a comfortable income, varied and intellectually interesting career, while helping keep our population healthy and walking, all while being able to have a personal life, are all there.

Do you have any final piece of advice for students interested in pursuing podiatric medicine as a career?
Shadow several podiatric physicians to understand what to expect, and work hard in college to achieve strong grades. Also, spend the time during college to have unique experiences that will make you stand out to any admissions committee.

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