The Foot Doctor and the Resident. Why I Choose to Work With Residents?

I had a patient ask me just last week why I work with residents in surgery and at my clinic. The simple answer is we all have to learn from someone. In reality it goes much deeper than that. After four years of college and four years of podiatric medical school they become doctors. When I say they become doctors I mean by degree only. Do they know how to perform surgery? Do they know how to run a practice? The answer is a flat out no. Now residency comes into play.

These new young men and women all have to begin somewhere even though their degree calls them doctor. I choose to work with them for two main reasons. I had someone show me the ropes when I got out of school. When I went through my surgical training I had a mentor, actually many mentors, show me and guide me to become the surgeon I am today. The other reason, I enjoy it! I love to teach and even to my patients after a surgery consult, many will say I feel like I just went through Surgery 101!

Residents do much more than just work in surgery. They go through intense rotations on many subjects from dermatology, orthopedics, plastic surgery, wound healing, emergency medicine, labs working on cadavers, and the list goes on and on. The first year is heavy on these rotations with some surgery. The following years they still do these rotations, but with more surgery mixed in.

Surgery rotations are difficult on them as they may scrub 6-10 cases a day with the attending surgeons, and then be on call for emergencies. At first they basically assist the attending surgeon by retracting and listening to the attending surgeon with maybe a little of the procedure given to them. As their skills improve in surgery they are able to do a little more of the procedure but only if the attending surgeon feels comfortable. If I dont feel comfortable then they are there to observe only.

I know what youre thinking. These rookies are doing surgery on me??? They start with easy things or easy procedures with someone like me having my hand on theirs to guide them at all times. There is always the attending surgeon there with them to guide them and take over. If the attending physician doesnt like what they are doing we stop and do it ourselves. The patient is never in danger because the attending surgeon is always there and will take over when needed. The attending surgeon is not allowed to leave the room. The residents are there to learn, that is the main objective.

When a patient asks me, Dr. Bowman, you are doing my surgery today arent you? The answer is yes, your health and well being is always my main concern. As time progresses and the residents watch more procedures and practice on cadavers (a personal thank you to those of you that decides to donate your bodies to science) they will be incorporated into doing more but always with our guidance. Rest assured if the resident is not prepared to do a case they wont be touching you. The attending surgeon will always ask for a game plan or a step by step way of what they would do before a case, and if its not in guideline with my thoughts, they dont come near you.

These residents are the cream of the crop or we dont invite them into our programs so rest assured they are capable and prepared for everything. Again, the attending doctor will never put you in any danger, and we do most of the procedures ourselves. However, these men and women are the future of the medical profession and have to learn somewhere, just as you or I did. We provide that education for them. You will see residents in my office, treating patients and working them up to see me because they dont teach them how to run a practice in school. They are there to watch and learn.

In all my years in practice I have been teaching and working with these residents because I love to and want to give back to my profession. Some doctors prefer not to work with them and that is their choice. But I can honestly tell you that by the time these fine residents finish their programs I would let any of them do surgery on me and in fact I have!

If you have any questions regarding this topic please feel free to contact Dr. Bowman at 713-467-8886 or through his website These are Dr. Bowmans comments and do not represent those of all podiatrists.

2013 Jeff Bowman., All Rights Reserved

Category: Surgery

Tags: Ankle Surgery, Foot Doctor, Foot Surgery, Future Doctors, Future Podiatrists, Resident