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A Medical Profession She Loves and Work/Life Balance

Physician Laura Shin, DPM/PhD '14, is nearing completion of a prestigious podiatry residency at UPMC/University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences.

"I'm looking at university-based positions that will combine my love for teaching, clinical practice and lab time," she said. "I want to continue that tradition and momentum."

Dr. Shin discovered the multi-faceted opportunities of the podiatric profession while mulling a path into graduate study. She had conducted research in neuroscience as both a pre-med undergrad at Johns Hopkins University, then as a research associate at Northwestern Children's Memorial Hospital. She wanted to stay at the bench, but she also wanted to work with patients and perform surgery. Now the mother of a young son, she knew she wanted the professional flexibility to build a strong family life. Podiatric medicine offered it all.

At Rosalind Franklin University, Dr. Shin pursued a dual degree through the Dr. William M. Scholl College of Podiatric Medicine and the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. She expanded upon the stem cell research that had early on captured her imagination and re-focused it toward discovery of regenerative therapies for the healing of chronic wounds.

"There are so many incredible opportunities for research at Scholl," said Dr. Shin, who learned and worked in both the Center for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine and the Center for Lower Extremity Ambulatory Research (CLEAR) at RFU. "The faculty fostered me, supported me and provided the resources I needed to succeed."

As a podiatric surgeon and scientist, Dr. Shin cares for patients and works to improve patient care. She preserves feet and legs at risk for amputation and searches for new ways to heal the devastating wounds that threaten her patients' lives and mobility.

"Podiatry is such a valuable profession and such an integral part of medicine," Dr. Shin said. "Research shows that podiatric care for diabetes reduces the healthcare burden in terms of treatment and prevention of what can be a debilitating disease. We help to keep people moving. There's no other profession that understands the biomechanics of the foot and ankle, in addition to surgical interventions, better than podiatrists do."

Dr. Shin's research has earned international recognition. In 2008, she became the first podiatric medical student to receive the American Diabetes Association Clinician Scientist three-year training award. The grant led to two influential publications, including an exciting paper that described the potential for grafted mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) to communicate with the body, recruiting other naturally occurring MSCs to help in wound healing. The work garnered more notice; in 2013 she was the inaugural recipient of the STEM CELLS Translational Medicine Young Investigator Award.

"The beauty of podiatry is that it offers the ability to do so many things related to primary care and preventive medicine," Dr. Shin said. "I see patients on a regular basis. I really get to know them and gain their trust. We're guiding them, leading them to the right specialists. As a podiatrist, I have the ability to educate patients, make sure they have the proper devices for ambulation — and perform surgery. That's something a primary care physician can't do.

"I work with a population that really needs my help," Dr. Shin said. "I chose the profession I love."

Posted December 9, 2016
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