As a podiatrist and Healthcare Merit Award recipient, Siti Nurfarahdillah Binte Abdul Razak takes care of her patients from the feet up.
Which vital organ keeps us standing and walking, and yet, goes sadly unappreciated by many of us?
“Our feet play a crucial role in our everyday life. However, they are the most neglected part of the body,” asserted Siti Nurfarahdillah Binte Abdul Razak, or Dillah, as known to her friends and colleagues.
Indeed, our feet are often taken for granted and Dillah is determined to give them the love they deserve through her role as a Podiatrist at Sengkang General Hospital. “I chose to be a podiatrist so that I am able to make a difference in other people's lives by helping them with their feet-related problems.”
Dillah, a Healthcare Merit Award recipient, shared that many people do not know what podiatry is about and that contributes to the neglect she mentioned at the start.
“I wanted the public to know more about podiatry and how this profession assists patients with rehabilitation and treatment options that are available if they have foot disorders, walking abnormalities or injuries,” she affirmed.
To that end, the 28-year-old gave us a rundown of what a podiatrist typically does: “We diagnose and treat disorders of the feet, ankles and lower extremities. This can be in the areas of foot biomechanics such as musculoskeletal problems, high-risk foot care such as diabetic wound care, and dermatological conditions such as ingrown toenails.”
Podiatrists treat injuries such as plantar fasciitis (a condition that causes pain on the bottom of the heel) and posterior tibialis tendinopathy (the wear and tear of the tendon that passes behind and around the inner side of the ankle), and they also help patients manage inherent conditions like flat foot and high arch foot that may predispose a person to injuring themselves from overuse.
As for Dillah, she focuses on wound care and diabetic foot management, among other things.
“Apart from treating patients, I am also managing the podiatry department's inventory, which allows me to be involved in the operational aspect of the department as well.”
She highlighted how, while a podiatrist's first few years on the job would most likely be clinical, there is a wide spectrum of specialisation in the field to suit varying interests.
“There will be opportunities for Podiatrists or Allied Health Professionals to be involved in the administrative and operational aspects of the work. This will allow one to be involved in the strategic planning of the department,” she clarified.
“Another two pathways are research and education. Change is constant in healthcare, making it pertinent for a practitioner to constantly update their skills and knowledge to keep abreast of the latest medical practices and emerging technologies. This allows for the delivery of the best possible care to our patients.”
Dillah finds the work engaging at Sengkang General Hospital, where a strong and collaborative work culture ensures she gains lots of inter-departmental experience. SingHealth, as a whole, has a focus on multidisciplinary care, recognising that each patient's recovery is aided by many different professionals.
She elaborated, “The ethos approach sparked the birth of SKH DREAM (Diabetes Rapid Evaluation of lower limb Amputation Management) services. DREAM was set up as a holistic multidisciplinary team (Podiatry, Endocrinology, Orthopaedics, Vascular and Infectious Diseases), and a one-stop service for individuals with diabetic foot ulcers and complications.”
“The aim of the service is for patients to have quality care and fast access to specialist doctors in a single setting to reduce the lower limb amputation rates.”
Dillah takes pride in knowing that a podiatrist's role is crucial in DREAM.
She said: “The podiatrists are the first-line healthcare professionals to triage the patient, and activate the relevant specialists to see the patient on the same day according to their clinical assessments and findings. This helps to reduce the chances of making incorrect referrals to the wrong specialties, and speeds up the time to get in contact with the relevant specialists and receive timely care.”
“On top of that, we also conduct outpatient clinics and ward rounds with Vascular, Orthopaedics and Plastic Surgeons as well.”
A photo taken at the “Footloose” event, which was held to celebrate Podiatry Day 2019. Through this event, Dillah and her colleagues were able to educate more people about the importance of foot health.
As the first healthcare professional many of her patients see, Dillah has a special role in building rapport and understanding. Hence, it is no surprise that at the end of the day, she lists being able to build meaningful relationships with her patients as her number one career achievement.
“Since I see my patients rather regularly, I am able to get to know them very well and every consult feels like a catch-up session, without neglecting the clinical aspect. Some patients live alone, and they would tell me that they look forward to coming to podiatry appointments so that they are able to talk with someone.”
“It is definitely one of the many rewarding things about this job,” she quipped.
She hopes that by recounting the unique aspects of her role and her experience as a podiatrist, others would be inspired to join healthcare as well. “If you are a person who thrives on challenges and loves tackling problems, healthcare is a noble and rewarding career that allows you to give a helping hand to those who need it. It is a very patient-centric job and requires empathy and compassion, and if your passion is to help others, this will be a suitable career path.”
This article was first published in BrightSparks Magazine February 2021. Republished with permission from CareerBuilder Singapore.