Dr. Lawrence Harkless: A Guiding Force in Podiatric Medicine

29. February 2024
ALPS

“Professor Harkless has accomplished more for the profession of podiatry in one lifetime than most people have the drive to complete in ten. I think his most notable achievement has been the mentorship he provided to hundreds of young clinicians and researchers, who now impact the field and create their own academic progeny. He is analogous to a large ship exporting the goods of the specialty to all parts of the globe. Indisputably, the wake left behind by USS Lawrence B. Harkless is wide and very long.” 

– Lee Rogers DPM, DFCon Faculty

 

Dr. Lawrence Harkless, originally from Texas, is a renowned figure in podiatric medicine, particularly recognized for his expertise in diabetic foot care. He completed his education at the California College of Podiatric Medicine in San Francisco and further refined his skills through an internship at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, followed by a residency in podiatric surgery at Atlanta Hospital and Medical Center in Atlanta, GA. Dr. Harkless’s career reflects a lifelong dedication to learning and teaching, evident in his roles as both a professor and a perpetual student of life.

Throughout his distinguished career, Dr. Harkless has been instrumental in integrating podiatric medicine into academic health science centers while also championing diabetes education and research. He has held esteemed positions, including Professor with tenure in the Department of Orthopedics and the Louis T. Bogy Professor of Podiatric Medicine and Surgery at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. Additionally, he served as the Founding Dean for the College of Podiatric Medicine at the Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona, California, and interim Dean at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School Of Podiatric Medicine, where he was responsible for developing academic plans and curricula for the UT system Board of Regents. Dr. Harkless’s fervor for education and his relentless pursuit of knowledge have earned him prestigious accolades such as the UTHSCSA President’s Excellence Award in Teaching, the American Diabetes Association Outstanding Educator Award, and the APMA’s Distinguished Service Citation, all of which underscore his enduring impact on the field.

Dr. Harkless has emphasized the critical importance of teamwork and interprofessional care within podiatric medicine. He firmly believes that diabetes management necessitates a collaborative effort, providing the groundwork for podiatric medicine to learn, serve, and lead. According to Dr. Harkless, having a clear purpose not only offers stability during challenging times but also fosters a collective sense of mission among practitioners. “If you have a purpose, when the storm and hurricane come, you have a root, a steadiness of who you are and why you are,” Dr. Harkless emphasizes, highlighting the significance of a unified mission in navigating healthcare complexities.

Moreover, Dr. Harkless stresses the indispensable role of collaboration and shared expertise within the field. “To me, it’s in your gift, and you need a team of people,” he asserts. His vision encapsulates the essence of teamwork, where each member contributes unique skills and insights to advance patient care and research. “If I can lead and teach, someone can write, somebody can research, and if you have different people teaching and mentoring at all those levels, that’s when you create,” Dr. Harkless elucidates, underscoring the collective effort required to foster innovation and excellence in podiatric medicine.

Dr. David Armstrong, the founding president of the American Limb Preservation Society and a former student of Dr. Harkless, reflects on his mentor’s profound impact: “When we keep score on a life well-lived, things like how much money you have in the bank or how many surgeries you’ve done pale in comparison to ‘How many women and men have you positively influenced as a mentor?’ In that context, Prof. Harkless is our Jackie Robinson, Babe Ruth, and Hank Aaron combined.”

Dr. Harkless’s influence extends beyond the classroom as he believes in the power of interprofessional teams to provide comprehensive patient care. “You need a team of people,” he affirms, “different people teaching and mentoring at all those levels, that’s when you create.” His dedication to collaboration and mentorship inspires podiatrists to strive for excellence and innovation in their practice. Dr. Harkless often quotes one of his favorite verses, John 4:38, “Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor,” emphasizing the importance of recognizing and building upon the work of those who came before. Dr. Harkless’s legacy stands as a testament to his greatness as a man, professor, and podiatrist. He epitomizes a living legend whose unwavering dedication to collaboration and mentorship inspires generations of podiatrists to pursue excellence and innovation in their practice.

For more information about Dr. Harkless’ work and upcoming initiatives, please contact Alison Evans, American Limb Preservation Society at Alison@alpslimb.org.

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