Faculty Spotlight: Howard Palamarchuk, DPM
By: Norah McDonnell
At 16 years old, Dr. Howard Palamarchuk was an athlete in race walking, a part of track a field involving fast walking. He had Olympic aspirations and tried out for the team in 1972, making it to the finals. He competed against the Soviet Union traveled to Europe to compete. He competed on weekends, then saw the local podiatrist every Monday to get patched up for the next week. Training included an average of between 70 to 100 miles per week. Injuries involved stress fractures, fascitis, blisters and more. Through his sport, Dr. Palamarchuk became interested in podiatry because of foot injuries. After learning through his podiatrist, Dr. Palamarchuk decided he could do podiatry as well with a focus on sports medicine. He went to College of Liberal Arts as a history major on a pre-med track at Temple University starting 1971. Dr. Palamarchuk then went to PCPM for sports medicine.
An exciting part of podiatry is when an athlete, usually a distance runner, ultra-distance runner, or cyclist visits him as a patient because it is a challenge to fix their problems and keep them in their races. As a private practice owner, it never seemed like going to work, but a new day and a new challenge. He saw all kinds of patients, not just athletes. He is trained in biomechanics and orthopedics, and his specialty is making orthotics for patients. In school, he enjoyed his professors and how they focused him on what the goals were. The one professor that influenced him the most was Dr. Allen Whitney, and now Dr. Whitney’s son and Dr. Palamarchuk are colleagues working at Temple Podiatry. Dr. Palamarchuk still uses techniques and lessons he learned from Dr. Whitney during school. Beyond that, Dr. Palamarchuk also gives back to athletes in his sport. With a goal to get his students involved in racing and helping athletes, Dr. Palamarchuk brings his students out into the field at races, where they work with medical teams at the Broad Street Run to the Boston Marathon, and have been doing so for 35 consecutive years. This is very rewarding because Dr. Palamarchuk takes his students to get exposed to these events, where they work side by side in medical tents to treat athletes coming across the finish line.
Some of his proudest accomplishments involve going into the field and working for over 35 years. Working with his sport, helping Olympic athletes, and traveling are also accomplishments of Dr. Palamarchuk. At PCPM, Dr. Palamarchuk worked with the teams, traveling overseas with the team, not just as a Podiatrist, but Team Manager. In Olympic year 1992, Dr. Palamarchuk went to Europe 4 times, taught and lectured Europe’s podiatrists, and worked with the teams. Traveling is part is his profession and his training, from Japan, China, Mexico, Argentina, Korea, among others. He went to the Olympic World Scientific Conference and gave a paper, and was there for the Olympics. He never made the team, but he gave back to his sport and worked with the athletes that did go on to make the team and worked at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. He was able to take personal accomplishments and then share his experiences with students, where he took students with him to some of the events. Pushing the students to go out into the field and learn what he learned helps them start their careers as well.
Podiatry has not been easy. Sometimes in podiatry you have to prove yourself. Dr. Palamarchuk says that it has taken a long time for the medical world to understand and accept podiatrists, but that keeps podiatrists sharp and “on their toes” to always show those professions and educate people about podiatry. A lot of people still do not know the level of education podiatry students go through; they are doing as much as medical students. They take hard courses, do the same level of training, but as specialists. The hard part for Dr. Palamarchuk is always proving himself to the medical community.
As a future goal, Dr. Palamarchuk would like to retire and spend more time with his children. In his house, there is a “laboratory” in the kitchen where Dr. Palamarchuk and his son,15, work on projects together. Some projects include building model airplanes, radio control, and drums. There is a 3D printer in the kitchen as big as the kitchen table. They bounce ideas back and forth on each other about science and technology. They are looking at making prosthetics and orthotics with the 3D printer together. His daughter, a senior in high school, is beginning her education in the following year in the fashion industry. Dr. Palamarchuk enjoys helping her look at colleges and loves seeing the work she produces, which includes prom dresses she made for her friends. He wants to be involved in their lives after retirement and he enjoys spending time with them.
Dr. Palamarchuk tells students who are learning and first starting in clinicals to listen. They need to listen to the patient and be involved in the patient. Most times the students control the questions but they do not listen to the responses, which makes them miss so much about the patient. He has had incredible conversations with patients and learns just as much about their lives as they learn about him. Patients practically give the podiatrist everything they need for the diagnosis, but the student has to listen and understand in order to fix the problem. A lot of the patients are hard-working people in the city, so doctors and students learn about their lives, which allows for a better treatment.
The Boston Marathon in 2013 changed Dr. Palamarchuk’s life forever. He has gone back ever since and will continue to do so. The students and Dr. Palamarchuk that worked together that day are a “band of brothers” now and they will always stay in contact and pay tribute to each other. During the heavy peak hours of the day, the bombs went off. Dr. Palamarchuk describes the moment as a shift from “blisters, ankle problems, sprains and strains, then all of a sudden open wounds, shrapnel, there were deaths. One person died right in the tent of the three that died that day.” The students were incredible. One of his students locked eyes with him, asking if they should leave, but quickly realized they needed to stay in the tent near the finish line. The announcer over the tent said to all of the medical professionals: “Folks, this is why you’re all here. You’re all professional, you’re trained to do this.” He calmed everybody down and led back to a focus. As the students eventually drove home, Dr. Palamarchuk called them every hour to make sure they were okay and safe. Going back every year is a celebration of taking the race back for runners and medical professionals. Dr. Palamarchuk and his students, on the day of the bombings, were helpful and heroes in saving lives.