By Rob Conenello, DPM
Like many of us, I have had my share of trying times. I remember a quote I read while battling an illness that said, “Sometimes painful things can teach us lessons that we didn’t think we needed to know.” This couldn’t be more meaningful than during the COVID-19 pandemic.
I live and practice in the New York metropolitan area. Sixteen months ago, we were the first and hardest hit area in the United States. Many of my medical peers were working long hours and were being faced with brutal conditions in which the reality of life and death was a painfully daily occurrence. As a podiatrist who deals primarily with elective issues, I felt removed from their world, and honestly felt humbled and as if I were a spectator to this medical challenge. At times I struggled with my inability to do much to help others. I kept my office open that first month, but truly did not see many patients, which further led to more frustration.
Soon thereafter, a strange phenomenon began to occur. My schedule started to fill up with first responders! I was treating those valiant frontline workers who were developing a multitude of overuse injuries. Doctors, nurses, police, EMS, and individuals working in long-term facilities were calling to be seen. It was then I realized my purpose was to keep them comfortable so they could serve others. That’s why, 35 years ago, I was called to my profession….to help others. This was uplifting for me as now I felt part of the team!
Having the benefit of time to re-evaluate my practice, I have also realized that there were many lessons learned and I will forever change the way I practice. The most important thing I learned to cherish was time. This takes many forms. Time spent with my family was definitely a silver lining. Being able to share meals and communicate had become a lost experience while trying to manage a busy practice. Moving forward, I have learned how to be a more efficient clinician and to schedule my hours so that I am free to be home at a much more reasonable time. Along with that I have also scheduled daily exercise into my life. No more excuses. I’ve never felt healthier, and I believe it gives me a much better perspective and empathy when dealing with my athletic patients.
The other aspect of time is to slow down with each patient and give them the opportunity to share their concerns without feeling rushed. Spending more time listening to them has revealed pathologies that I probably missed in the past.
I consider myself a lifelong learner and always enjoyed sharing best practices with colleagues at conferences as well as informally over beverages. Realizing this, 3 peers and I started our own podcast called RPM2 Sports Docs – Fitness is Medicine. We have reached out to all medical professionals both here in the US and abroad as well. Our informal show is not only educational but it has become a much-anticipated event in which I always gain a new pearl that I can use in the clinic.
Unfortunately, like many of you, I have lost dozens of my dear patients and friends to this horrid disease. I will not let their passing be in vain. I will continue to strive to be the best physician, husband, father, and friend.
We all must continue to remain positive and work together in order to DO GREAT THINGS!
Rob Conenello, DPM, is a sports medicine podiatrist at Orangetown Podiatry in Orangeburg, New York. He is also a member of the Lower Extremity Review Editorial Advisory Board. The podcast, RPM2 Sports Docs – Fitness is Medicine, can be found on Apple Podcasts.
Podcast snip from here https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/rpm2-sports-docs-fitness-is-medicine/id1508623765