Lawrence Harkless, DPM, Founding Dean of the Western University of Health Sciences College of Podiatric Medicine, is being honored this week in Washington, D.C. for his groundbreaking work in diabetic limb salvage.

Harkless will receive the 2008 Distinguished Achievement Award in Diabetic Limb Salvage during the 2008 Georgetown University Hospital Diabetic Limb Salvage Conference, held Sept. 18-20.

He is humbled by this honor and proud that the people he trained have gone on to leadership positions, Harkless said.

“There’s no better mission in life than service,” he said. “The joy of teaching and the opportunity to inspire others – that’s where the excitement of life is found.”

Dr. David G. Armstrong, the first recipient of the Distinguished Achievement Award in 2007, was Harkless’ student, and Harkless’ influence is seen throughout the conference.

“Perhaps no one in medicine today has done more to contribute to the concept of the team approach to diabetic limb salvage,” said conference director Dennis Vitrella, with International Conference Management Inc.

The conference will bring together vascular surgeons, interventional cardiologists, primary care physicians, infectious disease specialists, orthopedic and podiatric surgeons, nurse practitioners, diabetes specialists and wound care specialists, Vitrella said.

“The conference truly embodies Dr. Harkless’ philosophy of bringing disciplines together,” he said. “The subtitle of the conference is ‘A Team Approach,’ which really is Dr. Harkless’ philosophy, one he has taught and lived over the course of his career.”

One of the three conference directors is John S. Steinberg, DPM, who was also one of Harkless’ students.

“When I asked Dr. Steinberg where his passion came from for medical education, his response was, ‘Dr. Harkless!’” Vitrella said. “No further comment needed because Dr. Harkless is the master and inspiration of medical education.”

Vitrella added that Dr. Harkless’ Georgetown Award is even more notable as Dr. Steinberg’s fellow co-chairmen are plastic surgeon, Dr. Christopher E. Attinger, and vascular surgeon, Dr. Richard F. Neville.

Harkless directed the podiatric residency program at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio for more than 30 years. He has been recognized with the President’s Excellence in Teaching Award, the American Diabetes Association’s Diabetic Educator of the Year honor and the American Podiatric Medical Association’s highest honor, the Distinguished Service Citation. The WesternU College of Podiatric Medicine will welcome its first students in August 2009.

Dr. Harkless helped create the first diabetic foot course in America in 1985. He co-founded the Foot Care Council for the American Diabetes Association and served as its chair. He was elected to the ADA Board of Directors in 1992.

Among his innovations is a wound and risk classification system that determines the wound’s severity and course of treatment. Dr. Paul Brand, who studied leprosy in India, taught us the most concerning the role that neuropathy plays in ulceration, Harkless said. Brand stated, “Pain is the gift that nobody wants.”

Patients develop an ulcer because they don’t feel and there’s no sensation, Harkless said. Neuropathy, or loss of sensation, is the permissive factor in why patients ulcerate, and the reason they form the ulcer that leads to infection and amputation.

“Pain teaches us lessons,” Harkless said. “I need to explain that to a patient. Every patient needs their shoes and socks taken off and they need to be treated preventatively so they don’t develop an ulcer, which leads to amputation.”