Life as a Podiatrist

Michael Sganga, '07

1. What did you do to prepare for podiatry school? I prepared for podiatry school at Temple University and my career in a non-traditional way. I was undecided when I started at Ithaca, but knew I wanted to help people. By the end of sophomore year I had met and spoke with some transformative people at Ithaca. Ultimately, I decided I wanted to become a physician. I worked for an orthopedic surgeon in their office over the summers and holidays during my junior and senior years as sports medicine and injuries were always something I had an interest in. But, at the same time I was taking pre-medical classes year-round; as I declared my major late and needed to catch up to meet the requirements. I actually met with a friend who was a Dean at nearby Cornell University and helped guide me as well. After I graduated, I took a job in NYC at Weill Cornell Medical School working in a research lab on infectious diseases and respiratory viruses. While I was working in NYC and deciding what my next step was, I shadowed a surgical Podiatrist and found my calling. I began researching the profession and it took off from there.  While I knew I wanted to help people and be in medicine, Podiatry was not something that Ithaca College advertised or that was well known to me. I talked to several other medical professionals and shadowed podiatrists as well as visited the colleges before making my decision. I took the MCAT and was fully prepared to apply for allopathic medical school, but I chose podiatry school and I am really happy I did. 

I think the biggest thing for people looking at professional, graduate or medical schools to think about is what these degrees become. In podiatry school you become a podiatrist. While it is a very diverse profession, you will be dealing with foot and ankle conditions and this should be something you want to do every day. Shadow people and get to know what their life and job is like to make sure it is something you want to do and will be satisfying to you as a career. 

2. Describe your day-to-day life: Currently I work as a partner in Orthopedics New England in Newton, Natick and Hopkinton Massachusetts.  Each day is different for me as I go to 3 different offices, operate at 3 different hospitals and take call at those places. ER call can bring me in for consults or surgery after hours and on weekends.  I train residents and students, participate in peer-review for a journal, assist with academics and didactics as well as lecture on a variety of topics.  A typical week for me looks like office hours Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and 3-6 cases each day in the OR on Weds and Friday. I usually leave the house around 730 on office days and 630 on OR days getting home by 6 most of the time. I see a great variety of patients and different pathology. I really enjoy that every day comes with new challenges. On average, I will see around 30 patients per day ranging from heel pain, fractures (ankle, toes, metatarsals, etc..), sprains and strains, tendonitis, infections, post-op patients, bunions and hammertoes, and patients with deformity or pathology that requires orthotics, bracing, injections or reconstructive surgery.  I really never know what might walk into my clinic and luckily I feel prepared to see and treat all of it. Between podiatry school at Temple, my residency at Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, MA which is Harvard affiliated and had endless resources and opportunities and a medical mission I took to Nicaragua there isn't much I haven't seen and treated. 

My profession is called the "hidden gem" and it really is just that. Within the field of podiatry you can choose any areas to focus on. I prefer fracture and trauma care, reconstructive surgery and sports medicine and that is why I joined an orthopedic group. Others can focus on wound care, diabetic care, trauma, deformity, sports medicine, surgery and numerous subspecialties within it, pediatrics, dermatologic conditions, general podiatry and medicine, among many others. This profession can really give you everything you want in medicine or surgery. But, getting to know what it is and learning about what Podiatrists do is a great way to decide if it's right for you. 

3. Describe your day-to-day life outside of work: I have a wife (Ali Sganga IC class of 2008) and 2 kids, Jake who is almost 2 and Hailey who is 4.5. I live in the suburbs outside Boston near one of my offices and enjoy spending as much time outside of work with my family as I can. We like to travel, spend time with friends, go out to dinner and cook. I still try to remain active and play hockey, bike and exercise. We recently took the kids to London and then Italy last summer and had plans to travel more until the pandemic shut everything down. Most weeknights I am doing clinic notes and preparing for the next day after the kids go to bed. Most weekends that I am not on call are spent playing with my kids and taking them places. 

4. Is there anything that you wish you would have known before entering Podiatry school? I think Ithaca, my prior jobs and experiences all prepared me well for entering my profession and podiatry school. I was just talking about this with Tom Swenson, one of my mentors from IC. I still tell my residents and students I mentor about the experiences I had getting into teaching and becoming a lifelong learner. I was a TA for Dr. Swensons A&P class and it made a huge impact on my life and motivated me to do the things I still do today. I am an attending surgeon training residents and students in the office and the operating room. The thing that people tell you, but you don't really think about until after the fact is that the proper education is fine but the right mindset makes all the difference. I learned how to be a lifelong learner and critical thinker along the way, but that didn't happen overnight or come easy. I think that is the one thing I wish I really bought into early on in school.  

5. Is there anything you'd go back and do differently?

I don't think I would change a thing. I had a non-traditional path that helped me learn a lot and drove me to be more motivated to be successful. Every applicant, student or professional will have a different road and you should remember that is ok. No matter how you get there all that matters is you achieve what you want in a career and feel fulfilled.