Western University of Health Sciences’ College of Podiatric Medicine (CPM) developed a program that is making dreams come true and fulfilling lifelong ambitions of helping others.
The College of Podiatric Medicine developed the Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM) Advanced Standing program to provide graduates of foreign medical schools the opportunity to become Doctors of Podiatric Medicine, enter residencies, and practice in the U.S.
The DPM Advanced Standing program was born out of conversations between CPM Dean V. Kathleen Satterfield, DPM, FACPM, MAPWCA, and CPM Associate Dean for Clinical Education and Graduate Placement Jonathan Labovitz, DPM, FACFAS, CHCQM.
“There are many thousands of doctors educated in medical schools around the globe. Many of them are actually U.S. citizens who went to countries where their families originally hailed from – India, Egypt, the Netherlands. Far and wide. Those who are from the United States definitely want to return here to complete their residency training but there are not enough programs,” Satterfield said. “Without a residency, the degree that they worked so hard to achieve has very little value. When we learned that, the idea arose that perhaps they would be interested in obtaining a second degree as a gateway to residency training and practice. Indeed, it was a popular option. Dr. Labovitz really built this program from the ground up to address this need that had previously not been on our radar.”
DPM Advanced Standing students enroll in intensive months-long didactic learning on podiatric medicine, and then they join the third-year CPM class on clinical rotations and graduate with that class the following year.
“In the first two years, the students have done exceedingly well in the didactic part of the curriculum, which is very fast paced,” Labovitz said. It’s given a great opportunity to foreign medical graduates who were unable to practice medicine in the U.S. We heard from a number of them how it has given them renewed opportunities and that they are excited about starting their residency program. We graduated our first cohort of Advanced Standing students in May 2022 and all 10 matched with a residency program.”
Advanced Standing students differ from other CPM students because of their backgrounds, Labovitz said. CPM welcomes the cultural diversity and varied life experiences they bring with them.
“The biggest difference is you are dealing with people from different backgrounds,” he said. “They know what they want. They are goal oriented and driven, and the added diversity helps make the faculty better educators and clinicians.”
On May 18, 2022, Michael Morcos, DPM ’22, MD, was one of 10 students who graduated from CPM as part of the inaugural DPM Advanced Standing program. He matched into a podiatric medicine residency at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center in New Jersey. Morcos met the residency director and all the current residents when Morcos interviewed there, which strengthened the sense of camaraderie.
“It was what I was looking for – a friendly environment and people I feel comfortable with talking to,” Morcos said.
Morcos is originally from Egypt. He graduated from medical school and practiced there for about six years, moved to the U.S. in 2011, and started pursuing a career in medicine. He passed the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE), but he had a hard time finding a residency, which is required to receive a state medical license and practice medicine.
“The Advanced Standing program offered a huge opportunity and hope for me to practice medicine again, especially surgery,” Morcos said. “To me it was like a dream come true.”
The number of Advanced Standing students depends on the size of the third-year class they are joining. Moamen Elhaddad, MD, who was born in Saudi Arabia and raised in Egypt, is a member of the DPM Advanced Standing Class of 2023. He earned his MD from Ain Shams University in Cairo, Egypt, and went on to a four-year orthopedic surgery residency and one year of clinical training in foot and ankle deformities in 2014-15.
He moved to the U.S. in June 2015 and initially concentrated on clinical research at the University of Louisville. While working as a researcher he also started the USMLE process. His goal was to practice orthopedic surgery, which is very hard to match into.
“It was frustrating to not practice my specialty after almost five years of training in Egypt. Some people told me I could apply for other (non-surgical) residencies, but I don’t like that,” Elhaddad said. “I like being in the operating room and getting people back on their feet.”
He left the University of Louisville after almost two years for a clinical fellowship in the orthopedic department of the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington. He produced about 10 publications, including poster presentations and case studies.
One of his research projects required reading several articles written by both orthopedic and podiatric surgeons published in the Foot & Ankle International journal, which introduced him to the podiatric profession. He then learned about CPM’s DPM Advanced Standing program.
“Dr. Satterfield and Dr. Labovitz gave me hope,” Elhaddad said. “It was like magical news for me. It changed my life.”
Becoming a podiatric physician and surgeon opens many different opportunities and options, from sports medicine to trauma to ankle joint replacement, among other things, Elhaddad said. Dr. Labovitz and WesternU Foot and Ankle Center Medical Director Jarrod Shapiro, DPM, serve as good role models who take the time to explain everything to their patients.
“I feel like podiatric surgeons are well liked,” Elhaddad said. “You create this bond with the patients.”
The DPM Advanced Standing program is providing him the opportunity to change patients’ lives.
“It’s very magical. You are creating a tangible, real impact on a patient,” Elhaddad said. “You are getting them back on their feet and giving them hope.”