Crystal Holmes, DPM is a podiatric physician practicing in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She graduated from the Ohio College of Podiatric Medicine in 2002, and already her professional career and media resume have taken flight.
Currently, she is a clinical instructor at the University of Michigan Medical School, serving in the Metabolism, Endocrinology and Diabetes Division. Dr. Holmes earned her undergraduate degree at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee.
Describe a typical day at work
Every day for me is different, and that is what I like the most about what I do. There really is no “typical” day. Some days I’m at the V.A. Hospital, and others I’m at the University of Michigan Hospital in my clinic. Most of my patients have diabetes. However, I see patients of all ages with a wide spectrum of pathology. That is why I think my job is so much fun.
If you had it to do all over again, would you still become a doctor? (Why or why not? What would you have done instead?)
I would not change a thing! I’m truly enjoying working as a podiatric physician, and right now I can’t imagine doing anything else.
Why did you choose your specialty?
Diabetes and the complications of the disease run in my family. I have seen the devastating effects. My goal is to save as many limbs as I can; I want to make a difference. Also, when I was searching for my specialty, I enjoyed the interactions I had with other podiatrists.
Did you plan to enter your current specialty prior to medical school?
Now that you’re in your specialty, do you find that it met your expectations?
Absolutely. Podiatric medicine is challenging because there is so much information to keep up with. There is always something new to do and learn. That also keeps it interesting. I hate paperwork, such as charting, but it is a necessary evil for every physician.
Are you satisfied with your income?
Yes. My family and I are comfortable. I would still love to have Oprah’s bank account, though.
What do you like most and least about your specialty?
In podiatric medicine, we often feel like we have to defend ourselves and our profession. We shouldn’t have to do that. If you are well trained and have a good bedside manner, patients will love you, and others will want to work with you. Let your work speak for itself. I do!
If you took out educational loans, is paying them back a financial strain?
Yes, I have loans. I took out only what I needed. It has not been a problem paying them back. I see the loans as an investment in myself, and I am worth it.
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?
I work 12-hour days, 4 days a week. My sleep time varies. I’m an insomniac, but I try to get 8 hours of sleep a night. I get almost a month a year in vacation time.
Do you have a family, and if so, do you have enough time to spend with them?
I always want to spend more time with my family. It’s all about balance, and I think we all struggle to find it. I make time to do what matters most to me.
In your position now, knowing what you do, what would you say to yourself 10 years ago?
1. Work efficiently.
2. Read more.
3. Rest more.
4. Play hard.
5. Remember everyone can teach you something. The most valuable lesson someone can teach you is what NOT to do.
What information/advice do you wish you had known when you were a pre-med? (What mistakes or experiences have you encountered that you wished you had known about ahead of time so you could have avoided them?)
You have to be serious and study. Your classmates are also your future colleagues, and you never know who will end up where. This is a valuable network.
From your perspective, what is the biggest problem in healthcare today?
The rising cost of healthcare, accompanied by the decreased access to it. This is only complicated by insurance company policies and legislation that is not in the best interest of our patients. This is really too big a topic to cover in such a short interview.
From your perspective, what is the biggest problem within your own specialty?
I think that our biggest problem is that most people don’t know all that we do. Every day podiatric physicians treat a wide range of patients, from pediatric to geriatric. We do sports medicine, trauma, and palliative care. We do surgery, and we work with biomechanics. Every day is different, and that’s what makes it all so much fun for me.
What is the best way to prepare for this specialty?
Take all of the standard pre-med classes since the requirements for podiatric medicine are nearly identical to those of allopathic and osteopathic medicine. Then I would strongly recommend that you shadow a podiatric physician in your community. That’s really key to understanding what the profession is all about and how podiatric medicine can offer a truly balanced lifestyle. I think it’s also important to have a real desire to care for people.
Where do you see your specialty in 10 years?
I think podiatric medicine will be growing and completely integrated into the mainstream of medicine. As the baby boomers age and as the incidence of diabetes increases in our population, there will be a strong demand for podiatric physicians.
What types of outreach or volunteer work do you do, if any?
I run a clinic at a county homeless shelter. It’s hard work, but it’s very rewarding.
What’s most misunderstood about your specialty?
I don’t think everyone realizes the amount of training we have in podiatric medicine. Our program takes four years to complete, with another 2 to 3 years of postgraduate hospital-based residency training after that. I also think that most people don’t realize the variety of diseases podiatric physicians diagnosis and treat.
What’s your favorite TV show?
I rarely watch TV. I am more of a music fan. I love my iPod. I’d rather walk the dog or spend time reading.
Any final thoughts that we didn’t cover?
I’m very pleased and flattered to have been asked to participate in this interview. I really do want to stress that I think podiatric medicine is a profession that is just now gaining in popularity. I think that there is so much potential here, and I want pre-med students to really think hard about all their options before choosing a specialty. That’s the best advice I can give right now.
Special thanks to the American Podiatric Medical Association for facilitating this interview: www.apma.org