Foot Surgery as a Teen Leads to a Career in Podiatry

Posted on: April 12th, 2017 by cassisteuer

Get to know Kelly John, DPM, MHA

When choosing a physician, it’s important to know not only their credentials, but why they do what they do. You can read our physicians’ bios on our website, but we thought we’d dig a little deeper to find out what makes them tick. Why did they choose their particular specialty? When was the moment in their training they realized, “hey, I’m a doctor,”? Or even, what’s their favorite food? We pose these and other questions to our OrthoIllinois physicians for this monthly series.

Dr. Kelly John is a podiatrist whose own foot surgery as a teenager was a factor in steering her towards a career in Podiatry.

 When did you know you wanted to be a doctor?
I started thinking about it in junior high school.  I liked science class and medicine related topics. I remember taking my dog to the vet and being very interested in how they would fix his broken leg. My family is not made up of medical professionals – mostly bankers, Realtors, and business owners – so it was something I sought out on my own.

What led you to your specialty?
When I was 18, I was waitressing a lot of hours to earn extra money for school. I wore cute, but unsupportive shoes, and I developed foot pain and swelling. The doctor I saw told me I had an extra bone in my foot and it needed to be surgically removed. The procedure is known as a Kidner procedure. I don’t think the surgeon did a bad job, but following the surgery, my arch collapsed and I had continued foot pain. I thought, “There has to be a better way.” So, I went looking for it…and ended up a Podiatric Surgeon.  By the way, I had a second surgery to my foot about 20 years after the first surgery, and it is much better now.

During your medical training, what was the moment when you realized, ‘I’m a doctor!’?
After residency training when I did my first Kidner procedure all on my own, I thought “This is what I came here for!”

What’s the most amazing innovation you’ve seen in your medical career?
The use of internal hardware, and anatomically contoured hardware, has changed foot surgery. The Kidner procedure I had was done without bone anchors. Now I use bone anchors to securely advance the tendon to the bone and prevent the collapse of the arch. Early in my training, we would have to cut and bend plates to fit the bones we were trying to fixate. Now plates come in multiple shapes, sizes, specific to bones. This leads to less trauma, better anatomic alignment, and ultimately, better outcomes for patients.

How do you unwind?
I like to spend time with my family – I have been married to my husband, Jeff for 19 years and we have two children, Ella and Iver. I enjoy wine tasting, travel, and spending time “up north.”

What do you read for fun?
Fiction usually.  Currently I’m reading Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. But the last book was non-fiction: Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital.

Name your favorite movies/music?
My all-time favorite movie is Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.  Music: I like old school rock, like the Rolling Stones. I travel to New Orleans frequently for the New Orleans Jazz Festival. Right now, my car radio is tuned to 98.5 New Country.

What is your favorite food?

What would you say distinguishes you and your practice from others?
I train residents, and what I hear from them is my attention to detail. It’s difficult for me to compare, as I don’t know “what goes on” in other physicians’ offices. But what I do know is every patient encounter is a privilege. They are trusting me with their medical care, and I don’t take that for granted.

What would you like all your patients to know about the care you provide?
I really want every patient to know that I see them as a whole person and not just a foot problem. That fractured little pinky toe may not seem important, but when it prevents a pilot from flying her plane, it is a big deal. I don’t do “cosmetic” surgery, but I try to achieve a satisfactory outcome of both form and function. So the bunion problem needs to be corrected both biomechanically as well as for appearance. Sometimes it may seem to the patients, or even the staff, that I am just making small talk, but I am gathering information about them overall not just their current foot aliment.

Did you have a mentor during medical school or early on in your career?
I haven’t really thought about this in a long while, so thank you for asking. When I graduated from undergraduate college with a Biology degree, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do.  I took a job in a Dermatology Lab at the University of Minnesota. The Chief Dermatopathologist was Dr. Valda Kaye. I stayed working for Dr. Kaye for several years, following her after  she started her own private lab. I was in my early twenties, and had achieved the highest “histotechnologist” level but I wasn’t satisfied with the job as my career. She sensed that and directed me back to med school. When I left the lab and moved to Des Moines to start Podiatry school, she told me to “enjoy the process.”  What great advice!  I really enjoyed learning everything I could while in graduate school, externships, and residency. I still love going to seminars and medical education events. I think I better drop Dr. Kaye a note soon and thank her again for her guidance!



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