Alum Dr. Carolyn McAloon (B.A.Psych '91) was headed for med school, but an opportunity to observe a podiatric surgeon redirected her to the California College of Podiatric Medicine in San Francisco.
Career Center (CC): What's your story? Did you always want to be a podiatrist?
Carolyn McAloon (CM): I knew that I wanted to be a doctor since I was in the 8th grade, but I was not aware of the profession of Podiatry until I was an undergraduate. I majored in Psychology at Cal and followed a "pre-med" curriculum in the sciences. I worked as a front office assistant at East Bay Internal Medicine in Berkeley during my last year at Cal to get exposure to the medical profession. I was a December graduate, took the MCAT that spring, and married that summer. That fall, I was hired by a new Family Practice physician to manage his office in the East Bay while I applied to medical school. It was he who initially suggested that I consider a career in podiatric medicine.
He had rotated with podiatry residents while training at LA County Hospital. He introduced me to a podiatric surgeon in the East Bay who let me visit his office and observe a bunion surgery. I was hooked. My husband is a runner and was supportive of my decision to pursue a career as a podiatrist as well. I was thrilled to be accepted to the California College of Podiatric Medicine in San Francisco and matriculated the next fall.
CC: When you were an undergrad at Cal, what types of extra-curricular activities did you participate in? What helped you in your subsequent decision to enter a particular field within healthcare?
CM: While at Cal, I was a member of Sigma Kappa Sorority and the Psychology Major's student group. I was also a pre-med peer advisor and worked on a few graduate students' research studies. I think working in several medical offices while an undergraduate has served me well. It gave me insight into the life of a doctor and strengthened my resolve to pursue a medical career. It also provided me with role models with whom I have maintained friendships over the years. Having worked in medical offices was a great advantage when I started my own practice.
In addition to my work in medical practices, I also waited tables as an undergrad. A job in customer service is an excellent way to learn how to take care of people.
My recommendation is to participate in those activities at Cal that one is passionate about. Doing what you love is always the best choice.
CC: What would you consider unique about a podiatry career? Is there a type of personality or a particular skill that might fit well with this career?
CM: A unique aspect of my profession is that you practice both medicine and surgery. A podiatrist is the foot and ankle specialist so on any given day I practice sports medicine, diabetic medicine, radiology, dermatology, neurology, infectious disease, surgery, pediatrics, and geriatrics, as well as a little psychiatry.
Successful podiatrists are "people lovers." Medicine is an art and a science. One needs the intellectual curiosity and discipline to undergo the academic rigors as well a personality that inspires confidence and trust with patients, staff, and colleagues. Like any medical specialty, being a podiatrist is not just a job, but a commitment to the wellbeing of others. The needs of our patients comes before our own, but what a rewarding life! I never need to worry if I'm fulfilling my purpose; as a podiatrist it's clearly evident that I'm doing what it is I was meant to do. Keeping people walking is a noble calling.
CC: Was the podiatry program at Samuel Merritt what you expected it to be? What can someone expect to do or what professional career options does someone have if they choose to become a podiatrist?
CM: I graduated from the California College of Podiatric Medicine before it merged with Samuel Merritt College. However, I am involved with the college as an alum and an adjunct clinical professor.
Most podiatrists are in clinical practice in a variety of settings such as private practice, multi-specialty medical groups, university clinics, the VA system, the military, and the Indian Health Service. Some pursue academic and research careers and a few are in administration or the law after obtaining an MBA or JD in addition to their medical degree.
Dr. McAloon is currently on staff at the Bay Area Foot Care clinic.