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Women In Wellness: Dr Shannon Thompson of Ace Feet on The Five Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Help Support People’s Journey Towards Better Wellbeing

An Interview With Candice Georgiadis

As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Shannon Thompson of Ace Feet.

Dr. Shannon Thompson is one of Boston’s leading podiatrists and the owner of Ace Feet, a premiere private practice specializing in orthotics, medical pedicures, foot pain treatment, fungal toenail removal, and much more.

Dr. Thompson has over 10 years of experience treating patients in hospitals, podiatric private practices, sports medicine facilities and hospital-based clinics. She is a member of the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine, as well as the American College of Sports Medicine.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

I thought about establishing Ace Feet for a while before I actually ventured out–I have two kids and when they were younger it was easier for me to be employed. There was also initial hesitation centered around the fact that being a business owner is quite different from just being a doctor. There was a steep learning curve and I had to be mentally prepared to make the transition. As time progressed, I needed the flexibility. At the same time, I was ready to do something different, so I decided to bet on myself and establish my own practice.

Prior to starting my private practice I’d treated patients at a number of top institutions in the Greater Boston Area including Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Fenway Health (2013–2021), Bowdoin Street Health Center (2012–2021), and Boston Common Podiatry (2010–2012).

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?

Fresh out of residency, eager to see patients and make use of the years of learning, I was faced with a new patient. He was an elderly gentleman with a self-described “big belly” that prevented him from being able to reach his feet and that he needed help with his left foot. He complained of pain that felt like he was walking on a pebble. Now, what most people may not be aware of, is that, “the feeling of stepping on a pebble”, is a classic symptom of a few foot conditions, including plantar warts, calluses, and Morton’s neuroma. So, I started to examine his feet, using all the tools and tests available. But after a lengthy exam, I couldn’t find anything wrong. Finally, I grabbed his shoes and took a look inside. What do you know…there was a small rock inside of his left shoe. Over the years, I’ve often seen that the simplest answer is usually the right answer. This particular patient taught me that it’s important to really listen to the patient. Most people know themselves and will be right on target with their symptoms. Sometimes there actually is a pebble in the shoe.

Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When I was opening my own practice, I had a lot to learn about business operations. I had no experience with contracts, no lawyer or readily available counsel, and no negotiation skills. I needed to obtain an expensive piece of equipment and was unsure of whether to buy or lease. I spoke back and forth with a company representative who seemed to be able to offer a great deal on the equipment. I signed on for a lease with this company despite several warning signs. For example, this representative would chit chat with me about nothing important, but in doing so would contradict himself. He also challenged me to put down a hefty deposit and threatened a time sensitive deal. He would make jokes and ask how things were going, which would typically be the type of person you’d enjoy dealing with. But I got a pit in my stomach every time spoke. I ignored these warning signs and signed the lease, which eventually cost me greatly. The equipment broke every so often. Every month I wrote a check, overpaying for this disappointing piece of equipment. I should have gotten some help or taken the time to investigate options. I learned that it pays in the long run to invest in expert advice.

Let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?

I always say when your feet feel good, you feel good. I have patients who come in for medical pedicures or the foot revitalization treatment and they’ll say that it’s the best part of their month. Outside of actually caring for people’s health, I help them feel good about themselves. It’s more than medical care, it’s also self-care. I think my work also has an important ripple effect: when we care for ourselves, we’re in a better position to care for others which undoubtedly impacts the world beyond the sphere of my patients.

Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.

  1. Wake up early. If I have a long day ahead of me, I find that waking up early helps a great deal. I either use the time to prepare in some way for the day ahead, like go through emails or make sure I have everything I need to take with me to the office that day. Other days I use the extra time to get calm. I have an extra cup of coffee and listen to something inspiring or just entertaining.
  2. Go to the gym. I’m not always consistent with this, but when I do go to the gym every day I have more energy and just generally feel better.
  3. Keep learning. I find that researching topics in my field, going to conferences and learning from colleagues helps me with my practice. I think that challenging myself in this way improves my work life and general wellbeing.
  4. Taking a break now and then is essential. I think most of us tend to get sick easily or pick up a cold or other illness when we’re stressed or burnt out. Just having some time off can help me recharge and stay healthy.
  5. Fight the urge to compare yourself. There’s always a competitor who seems to be outdoing, overachieving, etc. That really doesn’t matter as long as you focus on doing your best. I think there’s plenty of room for everyone who provides valuable services.

If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?

I would start a movement where people take care of their feet at a younger age. People tend to neglect their feet until there’s a problem. I remember I once had a patient with a foot condition who happened to come in with her daughter. Turns out her daughter had similar issues, but we were able to course correct because she came in at a younger age. I see a lot of this–many of the issues people face in my field can be offset if they had a little TLC earlier on.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?

  1. I wish I had encouragement to start even earlier. Years ago I felt that my life was too busy and that starting a practice on my own would be too difficult. Looking back, I think I could have gotten started earlier.
  2. Nothing goes smoothly 100% of the time. Expect a few bumps in the road and just keep going.
  3. I also wish someone had told me that it would work out. Starting a business on your own can feel like a gamble and a word of encouragement never hurts!
  4. It’s okay to take a break. This goes hand-in-hand with knowing everything will work out, because if you believe that, you’ll be okay taking the break(s) that you need to stay refreshed and on top of things.
  5. I touched on this earlier, but it’s really important to trust your instincts when it comes to fostering new business relationships, and to invest in expert advice and guidance whenever you can to double check everything. That small investment can save you tons in the long run.

Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?

Environmental changes are pretty scary. I love to be outdoors and am a new, but avid, gardener. I’m shocked at the increase in gardening zones (plant hardiness zones) that have happened over recent years. Just another sign of the world heating up. I think it’s important to take care of the world we live in and hope that we can do that. My next project is to try composting. Maybe a small way to reduce waste and recycle/reuse.

What is the best way our readers can follow you online?

Instagram: @acefeetpodiatry

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/ace-feet

I can’t wait to connect with you!

Thank you for these fantastic insights!

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Candice Georgiadis

Candice Georgiadis is an active mother of three as well as a designer, founder, social media expert, and philanthropist.