Alumni Spotlight: Renee Vekkos, DPM
By Norah McDonnell, ENG 2022
What is your background like and the path to how you got here, and why you chose Podiatry?
I was a nurse for about 10 years and I wanted to further my education. My brother is a Podiatrist and went to Temple and graduated in 1982. He encouraged me and I went to visit him when he was in school at the time when I was a nurse, and I thought “Oh, I think I might like to do this.” So that’s what I did. He encouraged me to continue in Podiatry and that’s what brought me to school. As far as the Board is concerned, Pam is the one who approached me about it and I was very interested because I thought there has got to be more that we, as alumni, can do to help the students and help podiatry in general. I think sometimes there is a disconnect once people graduate from the school to actually see what’s going on, what is available at the school, and what the students are going through because it is so different year to year.
What was your Temple experience like and what are you favorite or most challenging memories or parts of Podiatry School at Temple?
I’m a little bit of an anomaly because I was married when I started school and had already been out of school for 10 years as a nurse, so it’s a little different than most students who start right out of college. My experience was a little different than that. I also took between my second and third year off to have my daughter and then I had my son in my 4th year of Podiatry School. I don’t think I had a “normal” experience. As far as the school, it was always known as being extremely academic and it is the best school in the country for podiatry. Knowing that it’s the best school in the country is what drew me to Temple, besides my brother. I had an incredible experience. As far as the educational experiences and when I got out, knew so much more than other people who had gone to schools in any other country.
Do do you have any comments about how TUSPM has changed?
That’s really hard to say because I was one of those people who was a little more disconnected when I first got out because I was taking care of my family, and trying to work as well. I think that coming back into the School, I’m seeing some of the changes and it’s been positive, along the fact that they have a new anatomy lab, which i think is amazing and that allows more opportunities for students to get involved with anatomy, which I think is an extremely basic course that we all need. So I think that that’s great. I haven’t been in a clinical yet so I’m not sure, but I know that the clinicals are valuable experiences for the students because we see people from all walks of life and they would come from things that we might never see in our general practice, so the clinic was always a phenomenal experience.
What is your proudest or most favorite accomplishment of your career to date?
I think now just being involved with the school is one of my proudest moments because before, I think a lot of times when we go out, we become individuals and we have our own practices, so we were kind of isolated from each other sometimes, so it was hard to get together, and I think that’s the one thing that the Alumni Association can do, and I am proud that I am starting to become a part of that. So this is the beginning of a new accomplishment for me and I am very excited.
What are some challenges in your position? What have you learned from this experience?
The biggest challenge is making the alumni more aware of what’s going on in podiatry and also what’s going on with our school and our students, and I think getting the information out there and getting the alumni involved is going to be the biggest challenge.
What are the rewards of your position? What is your favorite thing about it so far?
The rewards are getting involved and getting people more involved. When you get people back to their roots of podiatry, you get a lot of satisfaction because you see that they’re also excited about podiatry. Sometimes if you’ve been in practice a long time, you might lose a little bit of that enthusiasm you had when you first got out, so seeing people get involved is really important to me and something I am enjoying doing. I think that anytime you can bring people back to where they began and they have a positive experience, then that will get them excited about it too. Overtime, we all become a little blase about things just because of routine, but it’s good to see how the students are starting and what they are learning because that’s what we went through when we were in that time and how difficult it was, but we had support. The other thing is that the alumni want to support the students so that when they get out, they will support students and it will become like paying it forward in a lot of ways.
What is something you know now and wish you knew as a student or a new doctor? Do you have any advice to current students or new aspiring doctors?
I think I would have benefited more from the practical side of podiatry, as far as running a business, billing, learning about the statutes and things that podiatrists sometimes overlook because we are more worried about the academics or the hands-on part of podiatry, which is extremely important, but there are other parts such as running an office and having a practice that, even though we do learn some in school, we go out and that’s really when you realize that you truly don’t know as much as you need to. I think like anything, you have to be true to yourself and do your best in whatever you are doing. Be as well-rounded as possible. Podiatry isn’t just about the feet. A lot of people think podiatry is just feet, but really the whole body is affected.
You recently became Vice President of the Alumni Association. What is your vision for the board and the future?
I’ll say first that the board is an excellent board as it is. I would very much like the board to improve in becoming more diverse and also becoming more involved in the school itself, and to also try to bring more alumni back to the school and the board. The goal is to keep doing that, but on a higher level.