Prior to attending podiatry school, Maria Pena Felix was a health coach at her local community hospital in Riverside, California and saw firsthand how chronic diabetic foot ulcers can lead to lower extremity amputations.
“Through stories and experiences, I realized that some patients never understood the complications of diabetes due to language barriers and some patients never knew about preventative measures,” recalls Pena Felix, a second-year student at the California School of Podiatric Medicine at Samuel Merritt University (CSPM/SMU).
Pena Felix is now a founding member and President of the new American Limb Preservation Society (ALPS) student chapter at CSPM/SMU.
Miko Fogarty, a first-year student at CSPM/SMU, will serve as President-Elect of the ALPS student chapter. While she acknowledges she has much to learn and experience about podiatry, Fogarty says she will consider specializing in limb salvage when she gets out of residency training.
“Limb salvage is incredibly interesting to me as it is one of the most crucial life-saving procedures that we as podiatrists will be able to perform,” adds Fogarty. “Having the knowledge and skills to be able to save someone’s life will be rewarding and impactful.”
Third-year student Sarah Luettgen, another founding member of the ALPS student chapter at CSPM/SMU, recalls meeting David G. Armstrong, DPM, MD, PhD at the Diabetic Foot Global Conference (DFCon) and learning about the opportunity to establish an ALPS student chapter. Luettgen, who attended the conference with fellow student Hargun Oberai, says they were both inspired by a recent rotation with Alexander Reyzelman, DPM, FACFAS, Monara Dini, DPM and Mher Vartivarian, DPM at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) Center for Limb Preservation.
“(They) all worked as a team alongside the vascular surgeons at UCSF to provide the best possible limb salvage outcomes for patients,” notes Luettgen.
Pena Felix envisions a “collaborative, team-based approach” being the driving force for the new student chapter. She sees opportunities for hands-on workshops, lecture opportunities for students and possibly bringing in practicing podiatrists to show students current techniques being utilized in limb salvage. However, Pena Felix also sees a chance for the ALPS student chapter to develop and build multidisciplinary alliances for the future.
“In the near future, I would love to see our ALPS chapter create a collaboration with other Samuel Merritt University programs, such as nursing, physician assistants, etc. At the end of the day, limb salvage is about bringing together different specialties to provide the best care possible to our patients,” emphasizes Pena Felix.
In regard to other students who might be interested in starting ALPS student chapters at their colleges, Fogarty says it takes time, effort and patience but she encourages students to remain diligent and inspired.
“It will be worth it when you start to see students and patients from your community benefiting from the initiation of the ALPS chapter,” notes Fogarty.
Luettgen praises the support from the national American Limb Preservation Society.
“They really simplified and streamlined the process for us. We were also told we could reach out anytime to other school chapters to ask for advice,” adds Luettgen. “Even after our chapter was approved, we continued to get support, which makes me incredibly excited about what we can accomplish as part of a national organization.”