At the Summer Olympics in London over ten thousand athletes will represent over 200 countries will gather to compete. While only three medals will be awarded for each event, all who have made it to this point are truly Olympians. Listening to the many stories are told about what it took to become an Olympian made me reflect that those are the same qualities that make a great Foot and Ankle Doctor
To be the best, you need to focus intently on one area. An Olympian is not a generalist that is excellent in everything from swimming, to running to gymnastics, to power lifting. While they all are great athletes, they have chosen to master just one area. Foot surgeons have a similar focus. While they are talented doctors that could have done it all at a good level, they have made the decision to focus to be the best in this one area.
While everyone has played sports, Olympians spend years studying it. Most talk about watching the Olympics a decade before they competed. They spend years learning from others, perfecting their body, mind and technique. Foot surgeons are similar in that the training can take up to 2 years of medical school, 5 of Residency and another year of specialization.
Train with the best
Olympic athletes tend to learn and train from those that have gone before them. While only one can be the best, all can get better. Doctors do the same with their education, then the weeks of continuing education they must attend annually to improve there skills.
God Given Talent
Some say that practice makes perfect or that you can accomplish anything you set your mind to, the truth is that it all starts with God given talent. The gymnast lacks the height to compete in basketball while the marathon runner lacks the ability to float in water. Surgeons must not only be smart, but they must have the manual dexterity to repair delicate tissues. They must have the artistry to recreate structures that never were and the confidence to be able to sleep before hand.
Most Olympians are not widely known and easily forgotten (Don't believe me. Then who is the gold medal winner above from the 2004 Athens' games?). Yet for those they touch they impact there life for ever. If Water Polo is not your sport, you'd have no idea of the goalie of the winning team. If you've never had foot pain or deformity, you probably can't name a foot surgeon.
They Love What They Do
Most Olympic athletes will never make a dime from their sport. For them there is no endorsement and no professional career. While foot surgeons are professionals in that they get paid, when you consider the years of training and ever declining reimbursement there are much easier ways they could make a living.
Personally, I will never be an Olympic Athlete. I will never be a surgeon. I can appreciate the efforts, sacrifices, talents and joy that both bring. I hope you can too.
While there are many similarities, there is one main difference that strikes me. While the athlete has heard applause, the surgeon most likely has not. So once your doctor gives you the great news that you no longer need crutches, make sure you STAND UP and APPLAUD!