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Foot Health in Trinidad & Tobago… Some Reflections

Post-Conference Reflections
From November 13-15, 2014, I attended the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists Annual Conference and Exhibition, entitled Making Connections in Bournemouth, England. It was both informative and exciting being there. Quite relevant as I’m currently a 2nd year Podiatry student, so it basically ‘connected’ the dots.

A few of my classmates and myself were amongst the approximately 1,200 delegates attending a number of lecture sessions conducted by highly qualified podiatric surgeons, dermatologists, podiatrists, doctors and professors of varied related disciplines from the UK and Australia. They covered topics like Diabetes, Rheumatology, Sports Medicine, Dermatology, Wound Healing, Biomechanics, Surgery, HIV, and Podopaediatrics along with many more.

Via the lectures and student careers forum, we were exposed to the many specialist fields which we can choose following qualification, such as rheumatology, podopaediatrics, biomechanics, surgery, and wound care. The varied exhibitors had giveaways and displays showcasing software, products, instruments and equipment geared for private practice. The exhibitors were extremely knowledgeable, giving recommendations and general advice.

Why Podiatry?
A Podiatrist at workSo why did I choose to leave Trinidad to study Podiatry? The simple answer – to make a difference in my country, given it’s an area greatly needed, and given the number of persons with diabetes, neuropathy, ulcers and amputees. The few existing podiatrists can’t do it all, and given there aren’t any in the public health sector, speaks to the fact that our country has a long way to go. It was enlightening hearing about the role of the podiatrist in health care, and as part of the multidisciplinary team.

Last year I got to observe Podiatrists practise in different areas of the National Health Service (NHS), and this year I’m actually treating patients in the NHS which is a fulfilling experience. It’s one I wish would evolve into a norm in Trinidad and Tobago within the Regional Health Authorities, since like the UK, our health services are free. Each week from 1st year I’m in the College Clinics, treating patients with issues, and it is surely building my experience base along with improving the patients’ health and wellbeing.

Podiatry in the Global Context
A podiatrist’s consultation and medical intervention can make such a difference in an individual’s life, especially the patient with diabetes, Common Ailments of the Feetvascular or neurological issues. It is an underdeveloped or unrecognised area in many countries, but with foot and lower limb issues on the rise, this profession has places to go. There are now areas such as forensic podiatry, acupuncture for podiatrists, manipulation therapies, and ultrasonography. Independent prescribing is also on the list.

I am looking forward to next year’s Conference, as I know as a final year student, it will be even more applicable and would prepare me further to return to Trinidad to start my private practice, and hopefully, work as well in our public health sector.

Anniversary Reflections
Continuing my reflections, it brings me to another place; Almawi’s 10th anniversary is today. It seems unreal, and has been quite a journey; however, as I think back, I must express my gratitude to all the staff, suppliers and clients who passed through, cause without them we wouldn’t still be standing strong. We have evolved over the years from only foot care products, to varied services that aid in better health and general wellbeing.

I always end my articles with a reminder to take your feet seriously. Indeed, this is true, and whether you are diabetic or not, living with other related ailments or not aware of any, it is equally important to monitor your feet, as it’s an integral tool in your daily mobility.

Universal Foot Care Tips
Here are some tips as a reminder of basic things we should do but often take for granted:Healthy Feet
• Check your feet daily for differences like swelling, cuts/bruises, splits in heels, numbness, etc.
• Dry your feet thoroughly after washing them, especially between the toes, which is where fungi such as Athlete’s foot can easily breed, as it loves moist environments.
• Apply a moisturising foot cream with a good urea base; however, never between the toes.
• Remove hard skin with a foot file regularly; don’t use grater type files as you can damage healthy layers of skin.
• Cut toenails straight across, don’t cut to short (not below the free edge), never at an angle, or down the edges. This can cause ingrown toenails.
• Shop for shoes in the afternoon. Feet swell as the day goes on, and if shoes fit in the afternoon when your feet are at their largest, you can be assured they will always be comfortable.
• If you have to wear heels at work, wear comfortable shoes to and from the office, and only wear your smart shoes once you’re in the office. Also, try to vary the heel height, between low and medium.
• Limit time wearing high heels; wearing totally flat shoes for long periods isn’t advised either.
• Pointy tipped shoes or shoes with a narrow toe box can lead to problems like bunions and corns.
• Change your socks or stockings daily.
• Wear flip-flops to avoid catching athlete’s foot and plantar warts (fish eyes), when you use public areas such as gym showers and swimming pools.

Remember these reminders are applicable to everyone, but are particularly essential for persons with diabetes, vascular or neuropathy issues.

The Way Forward
My dear readers, it’s a great pleasure to share weekly with you about the various foot health issues, even from across the miles. On this important milestone of my Clinic’s existence, I pledge to continue my contribution, to make connections, to help keep our country in the forefront in this critical area. Thanks for your support, and may God richly bless you and our nation!

Your feet mirror your general health . . . cherish them!

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