At some point in the adventure that can also be referred to as your career in medicine, it became apparent to you that you had found your niche. I’ve long held the opinion that wound care finds you as much as you find it. When I entered podiatry school, I had figured my path would be focused on orthopedics and sports medicine.
I will never forget my professor (and now friend), Warren Joseph, DPM, presenting to our incoming class during orientation week. The moment he showed a slide of a foot with a hemostat buried within the plantar surface, toxic waste flowing from the ball to the heel, I reassured myself that I would never have to worry about encountering anything resembling that in my future practice!
Granted, wound care is not for everyone. As you are keenly aware, ours is a world that is hardly glamorous. Things we encounter are mostly smelly, often accompanied by pain and frustration. Yet we are the eternal optimists, the ones who manage to find reasons for optimism when things can appear to be most bleak. In what other profession will you find providers getting excited when new granulation tissue is becoming apparent in a wound that was previously covered with necrotic debris? This is often accompanied by a reassuring statement like, “That looks great!”
Yes indeed, wounds are frequently “nasty,” yet that optimism we seem to share is what sustains us and fuels our drive to make things better and to heal. The wound care community abounds with positive energy.
Looking back on your career, was there a defining moment when you realized that wound care was your calling? Maybe there were several that had the cumulative effect that led you to immerse yourself in wounds (pun completely intended).
I’ll go first and if you would like to share your defining moment, I’d love to learn about it. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Here’s when the lightning bolt hit me. I was in my first year of residency at the VA Medical Center in Philadelphia. One day while in clinic, I was debriding a deep diabetic foot ulcer. Regardless of the olfactory overload in front of me, I began experiencing hunger pangs.
At that moment, I realized several things. The first was that it was almost time for lunch and my biological clock was functioning with the precision of a Swiss watch. The second one was that despite the pretty horrific wound I was a few inches away from, my thoughts of what I was going to eat for lunch made it clear the wound had no ill effects on me.
Not only did I realize that wounds could not “gross me out,” but I also began experiencing the challenge of facilitating their healing. Most importantly, I regularly gained the satisfaction of helping patients whose daily life, due to a chronic wound, was often an exercise in frustration, and whose gratitude for my efforts was frequently immeasurable.
Dr. Desmond Bell is the Founder and President of “The Save A Leg, Save A Life” Foundation, a multidisciplinary non-profit organization dedicated to the reduction in lower extremity amputations and improving wound healing outcomes through education, evidence-based methodology and community outreach. He also serves as Chief Medical Officer of Omeza, an evidence-based medical technology company and consumer healthcare products company initially focused on healing chronic wounds and preventing their recurrence. In 2020, he joined MD Coaches as an Executive Physician Coach, serving as a peer to peer mentor.