Dr Brad Schaeffer of Sole Podiatry NYC: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Became A Doctor
An Interview With Luke Kervin
You are going to fall and fail many times before you reach your goal. This is where perseverance comes in again. There are always setbacks and things don’t always go as planned, in school, sports, work, relationships, you name it. If you keep at it, with no excuses (perseverance again) you will get there!
As part of my series about healthcare leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Bradley Schaeffer, DPM.
Dr. Brad is a board certified podiatrist and foot & ankle surgeon with the ABFAS [American Board of Foot and Ankle Surgery]. A former collegiate athlete and finalist on NBC’s The Titan Games, motivational fitness, health, and wellbeing continue to be among his passions. He can be seen every week on the popular TLC show, My Feet Are Killing Me, where he is known to bring compassion and expertise of Podiatric Medicine to patient’s lives.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! What is your medical “backstory”?
I grew up in athletic household and played all types of sports — football, soccer, and most seriously, baseball. Having my fair share of injuries growing up really opened my eyes to a career in medicine. After one particular injury on my foot while playing soccer, I started seeing a local podiatrist (I grew up in Philly) and he made a huge impression on me, how down to earth he was and how fast he was able to get me back on the field. My original plan in college was to become a pharmacist but I quickly realized that was not the route for me. Going back to those childhood experiences, I dedicated my time and studies to becoming a pre-med major. I played baseball at Palm Beach Atlantic University in Florida and being a collegiate athlete while also studying to become a doctor was very challenging. At times I did not know if I was going to be able to fully pursue both passions. During my 3rd year of undergrad I decided to focus all of my attention on securing a more realistic and dependable future and gave up my dream of playing professional baseball. Podiatry school is a very streamlined process that allowed me to get right into my desired profession, unlike medical school where you have to spend a few more years experiencing different fields and then choosing a specialty. This was very appealing to me since I was already interested in podiatry. I completed my post-grad studies at Temple University School of Podiatric Medicine back in Philly, followed by a 3-year comprehensive Foot & Ankle Reconstructive Surgical Residency at Hoboken University Medical Center in NJ. I continue to train and learn, focusing now on cutting edge surgical techniques and regenerative medicine. I opened my own boutique practice in NYC in 2021.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
I became a TV personality!! After completing my residency at Hoboken University Medical Center I decided to show people a different side of medicine by utilizing social media — not just podiatry but all the challenges of the process of becoming a doctor. I was very open and honest about my failures, successes and overall journey to become a doctor. My stories must have resonated because I really started to gain a lot of traction and people were responding to what I was sharing — mostly the realities of work-life balance and ups and downs of attaining career goals. At that time, other physicians with hyper specialized practices were also gaining notoriety, Dr. Sandra Lee aka “Dr. Pimple Popper” being the best example. The TV networks were watching. TLC noticed that something like popping pimples had an audience, and production companies started looking for what was next — feet seemed to be the popular choice and “next great idea.” I think it was because I was already putting myself out there on social media, I really was a foot doctor, and the fact that I also happened to be competing on NBC’s The Titan Games, executive produced and starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, that prompted Renegade 83 Productions to reach out to me to see if I would have any interest in taping a pilot episode for an “exciting new foot show.” Everything aligned and seemed to be in the right place at the right time. Six months went by after the pilot episode without hearing a word, so I assumed it wasn’t going to happen. When the call eventually came from EP Eugene Young telling me that I got the job along with another podiatrist from the west coast, I jumped at the opportunity. I knew it would be a great platform to show my specialty in a different light and to showcase how amazing we podiatrists and foot surgeons are on a daily basis.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When I first got out of residency and was in week one of my new job in NJ, I was flying high because I finally fulfilled my dream of becoming a doctor. There was a patient that had a very bad infection and unexpectedly, the pus from his sores exploded all over my tie, collared shirt and white coat. My rookie mistake was to just ‘go at it’ and not prepare properly, take my time, move to the side, put down protective towels, etc. Talk about an in-your-face, embarrassing experience! I learned that, from then on, life can humble you very quickly and sometimes… you get pus in the face!
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? I am celebrating the 1-year anniversary of my private practice on the upper west side of NYC, Sole Podiatry NYC, it was always a dream of mine to have my own practice. Now I’m working on developing a dedicated wellness and aesthetics center within the office. I want it to be a calming space that offers treatments from head to toe and debunks that feeling that a doctor’s office is stressful. We specialize in regenerative and cosmetic procedures to transform the foot inside and out and improve our patients’ quality of life — one step at a time. (Pun intended!) I like to say we think outside the box and don’t live in the confines of traditional medicine — I’ve been building a practice that dedicates more time to the patient vs making them feel as if they are just another number flowing through the office. One of the noninvasive techniques we do, that is super cool, is laser therapy for pain and inflammation — versus those ‘ol Cortisone injections. Regenerative injectables are another state-of-the-art offering, we use platelet rich plasma and stem cell injections to jumpstart the healing process. I could go on and on about new and exciting medical procedures that are available!
I also try to spend time sharing and generating excitement about the importance of health and fitness on my IG stories “Nothing but NET [No Excuses Team],” I love to motivate others.
And of course, the show: My Feet Are Killing Me is enjoying great success on TLC, we are in our 4th cycle of shows and I’m really looking forward to taping more soon!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Honestly, it would be hard to narrow it down to just one person. I was lucky to have a great family support system throughout my life and years of schooling. This includes my mom, dad, and my grandparents, they were all supportive in their different ways during my long study nights and early morning drives to medical school — I lived at home while going to med school! My dad just listened a lot, when I had to vent, got down or frustrated, that type of help was invaluable in its own way.
Is there a particular book that made an impact on you? Can you share a story?
I did my senior year high school thesis on “Catcher In The Rye,” I really related to Holden Caufield’s journey as a young man trying to figure out life. Although our stories were different, the struggles and expression of the challenges of growing up throughout the book really resonated with me and have stuck with me. It remains one of my favorites to this day.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
As I mentioned before, my IG “No Excuses Team” seems to resonate and bring goodness to people and I’m sure me being on both The Titan Games and My Feet Are Killing Me has helped me to reach more people. I love helping the younger and next generation of podiatrists who need encouragement, too. I’m very accessible on social media where I share my stories & struggles –meeting them where they are at in their journeys — whether struggling with MCAT prep, the application process for grad school, or just overall insecurity. I’m also actively involved with the Arthritis Foundation.
And I’m super proud of using my success to share my coming out story during PRIDE this year. Because I now have somewhat of a platform, it was time to say something publicly [I’ve been out for 10 years but have always kept my personal life separate from my TV persona]. Now more than ever it is important for people to not only accept but understand the LGBTQ community that I belong to. If my experience and journey can help even one person struggling to be comfortable in their own skin or live their true authentic life, I’d count it as a success. I’m just getting started, too, so bringing more and more positivity, and ‘goodness,’ is the plan!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story about how that was relevant to you in your own life?
“Ambition is the path to success. Persistence is the vehicle you arrive in!” That’s been my motto since Day 1. My message for life is: perseverance. Plain and simple.
Can you share your top three “lifestyle tweaks” that will help people feel great?
1. Get in a great workout — HIIT [high intensity interval training for 30 minutes] — is my go-to and which I try to do at least 5 days/week.
2. Dedicate time to the people who matter most to you in your life!
3. Understand that 99% of our worries never happen — life is a ride, chill out and ride it!
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Became A Doctor” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
1. You are going to fall and fail many times before you reach your goal. This is where perseverance comes in again. There are always setbacks and things don’t always go as planned, in school, sports, work, relationships, you name it. If you keep at it, with no excuses (perseverance again) you will get there!
2. Medical school can be very cut throat and is not a “team sport.” I truly expected that because everyone was there be a doctor, and learn how to help others, we’d all help each other. I found it unnecessarily competitive with the class rankings, grading, and more. We were all going to end up in the same career so why the competition?
3. Certain people within the medical community would become my family. What an amazing perk and transition that I didn’t expect. My best friend from podiatry school married another classmate of ours and I’m now god father to their children! These are lifelong relationships that honestly, I thought would be fleeting and only survive during our schooling years together.
4. How the important relationships in my life would be affected. When going through the rigorous years of studying, prepping for the MCAT, board certifications, etc., it feels very solitary. My family and friends really did kind of suffer along with me and I’ve learned now, but could have a little sooner, how to shift and prioritize to make sure they know how important they are in my life. Work-life balance — it is important at all stages of life!
5. How truly fulfilling it is helping patients. I chose a career in medicine to help others but had no idea how amazing and what a rush it authentically would be to see a patient come into your office in pain and leave with a smile. It is a better feeling than any homerun I EVER hit!
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
There are plenty of movements out there already that need support and help so honestly, I would like to lend my voice to those that focus on anti-bullying and inclusivity — there is still so much more to be done, unfortunately. A few that are really making a difference include The Cool To Be Kind, CyberKind, StopBullying.gov, GLAAD’s initiatives, B The Change, and the list goes on!
What is the best way our readers can follow you online?
IG @doctor.bradley Twitter @DrBradleyDPM
Thank you so much for these wonderful insights!