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Podiatrists Tapped As Vital Resource For Global Disaster Relief

As global number of amputees grows, foot care specialists traveling abroad to save lives

Bethesda, MD (Vocus) -- More than three months after the January 12 earthquake in Haiti, the injuries many sustained in the event are still changing and claiming lives. With the initial earthquake leaving between 4,000-6,000 amputees to combat infection, podiatrists have continued to visit the battered area to help treat amputees and stave off future limb loss. In these types of disaster situations, a podiatrist’s role is considered vital to keeping victims alive.

“We are at the point now where we are seeing post-op infections and wound infections,” said Carrie Gosselink, DPM, a podiatry resident and member of the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) in Jacksonville, FL, who has worked with local Haitian group the CRUDEM Foundation three times in the last year to provide critical medical care in Haiti.

As the number of worldwide amputees continues to rise as a result of natural disasters and complications of epidemics such as diabetes, the foot and ankle care that podiatrists provide is going global more than ever before. Many American podiatrists are traveling to provide aid, and have worked alongside other medical providers in makeshift trauma centers during catastrophes such as the Haiti earthquake.

However, this medical treatment has not been limited to areas affected by natural disasters. Many podiatrist groups regularly plan trips overseas to provide and educate those in need of proper foot care. Like many other podiatrists working with local relief organizations, Dr. Gosselink previously traveled with a team of providers from the University of Florida’s Shands Hospital-Jacksonville before the Haiti earthquake to provide local residents with necessary foot care. Others, like APMA member Patrick DeHeer, DPM, of Carmel, IN, have long worked to provide wound care overseas in impoverished areas of Honduras, Iraq, Trinidad and Haiti—volunteering for mission trips to areas where equipment and medical supplies are limited, but medical care is urgently needed.

“The thing I have noticed after 17 trips all over the world is that most of these underdeveloped or war-torn countries lack specialty care of all kinds. Foot care is especially lacking,” said Dr. DeHeer, who created non-profit group Wound Care Haiti in March 2009. He added that educating and training in these areas is paramount to success. “I am a firm believer in trying to avoid ‘parachute medicine,’ where you drop into an area, do a bunch of surgery and leave. If you can teach and work together to establish an on-going program, the results are significant,” he said.

While providing aid during traumatic times can be difficult, many have found their relief experience uplifting. “Amidst all the despair, devastation, death, and wounded, what was most amazing to me was the feeling of hope and gratitude of the Haitian people,” said APMA member Jacqueline Brill, DPM, a Miami podiatrist who has made several trips to Haiti, and plans on returning again soon to the area.

Under the direction of a recently adopted APMA resolution, the Association will continue to develop a disaster relief program that will facilitate volunteer podiatric physician member involvement in the international and domestic disaster-relief process, in an effort to reduce and prevent unnecessary limb amputation. For more information, visit

Founded in 1912, the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) is the nation's leading and recognized professional organization for doctors of podiatric medicine (DPMs). DPMs are podiatric physicians and surgeons, also known as podiatrists, qualified by their education, training and experience to diagnose and treat conditions affecting the foot, ankle and structures of the leg. The medical education and training of a DPM includes four years of undergraduate education, four years of graduate education at an accredited podiatric medical college and two or three years of hospital residency training. APMA has 53 state component locations across the United States and its territories, with a membership of close to 12,000 podiatrists. All practicing APMA members are licensed by the state in which they practice podiatric medicine. For more information, visit


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