Interview with Sharon Dei-Tumi, TUSPM '24

Interview with Sharon Dei-Tumi, TUSPM '24

By: Sarah Brown, KLN '25

Sharon Dei-Tumi is a fourth-year student and class president at the Temple School of Podiatric Medicine (TUSPM). She was recently named as the 2024 recipient of the Michael L. Stone Award for Outstanding Professional Conduct.

The Michael Stone Award is awarded to a fourth-year podiatry student who excels in their studies and simultaneously supports their local Philadelphia community. In addition to meeting these criteria, recipients are also nominated for the award by other members of TUSPM.

Originally from Ghana, Sharon is an international student and has lived in the United States since she was 17. Before studying at TUSPM, she earned her undergraduate degree from Greensboro College and her master’s degree in public health from Drexel University.

Sharon gained her initial experience in medicine by shadowing a podiatric surgeon during an amputation surgery for a project on diabetic neuropathy. She remembers being surprised by the lack of need for local anesthetics during the surgery, though they were still on hand just in case.

Her interest in medicine continued to grow when she had the opportunity to shadow another physician during her senior year at Greensboro College. As a result of this opportunity, Sharon was hired as a medical assistant and gained even more medical field experience over the next three years.

Sharon became interested in public health after a conversation with her mentor regarding some shortcomings of patient care post-treatment. Speaking of her newfound interest in the field, she said, “I realized public health was about advocacy… making sure that when a patient goes to the hospital, they get the medication that is supposed to help them and when they go back home, they actually have the resources to follow the recommendations their doctor gave.”

While completing her master’s degree in public health at Drexel University, she had a conversation with her then choir director, Dr. Chrisbel Dafeamepkor- a TUSPM and Penn Presby residency alumnus, about his satisfaction with his surgical career. Through him, she learned about podiatry and was given the opportunity to observe Dr. Michael Downey during a tarsal coalition surgery.

While she loved the versatility that a career in podiatric medicine offered, what fully convinced her to study podiatry was hearing about the field’s healthy work-life balance. Following a year of working in a public health position for the city of Philadelphia, Sharon transitioned into becoming a TUSPM student.

Since starting at TUSPM, Sharon explained how she had to change some of her study habits in order to succeed in the program. In particular, studying together with a study group and utilizing office hours with her instructors were especially beneficial.

Using her first-year Biochemistry course as an example, Sharon emphasized the high rigor of her TUSPM courses as she explained how she and her classmates covered the equivalent of a year’s worth of undergraduate Biochemistry knowledge in about four to five weeks.

Since joining TUSPM, Sharon said that one of her favorite things about the program has been her camaraderie with her other Class of 2024 classmates. Particularly, since they were separated during their first year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, one of her fondest memories of the program was when her entire class met in person for the first time at the beginning of their second year to take their class picture.

The pandemic also posed one of the biggest challenges in Sharon’s studies at TUSPM. Because they lacked the mentorship from upperclassmen that previous first-year students received due to in-person instruction restrictions, she and her classmates found it difficult to request help and resources at first because they did not know who to ask or what exactly was available to them.

Upon receiving the Michael Stone Award, Sharon said she felt honored to have been chosen by TUSPM. She was both surprised and touched to also receive a standing ovation from her colleagues at the ceremony at ACFAS.

She described her friends, family, and faith as being sources of encouragement throughout her studies leading up to this award. Speaking of her family’s support in particular and what this award also means to them, she said, “I left Ghana when I was 17 and I’ve been away from my family since then, so getting this award… as parents, I know that they were happy, that they felt like their sacrifice was not in vain.”

In addition to GPA, another criterion for the Michael Stone Award is community service work. Before joining TUSPM, Sharon was a part of the Pandemic Preparedness Project as part of her work in public health prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Pandemic Preparedness Project focused on the level of preparedness to respond adequately to high risk infection including newly emerging and re-emerging infections.

More recently, Sharon’s community work involves traveling to high schools and colleges to speak about podiatry, public health, and other medical fields. She thinks that it is important to not only share information about the opportunities in medicine with others but also to highlight the importance of representation within the field.

“As an African female, one of the things I’m very passionate about is making sure that other young girls who identify with me know that it’s possible to live out your best dream,” said Dei-Tumi. “Representation matters. If you see that someone who looks like you is achieving a certain level of ability, it encourages you to know that, ‘Oh, if she can do it, then I can too.’”

For prospective podiatry students, Sharon recommends viewing podiatry, and medicine as a whole, as a higher calling. She advises that those who join the profession for money will not feel nearly as fulfilled in their career as those who practice in order to help their community.

As President of the Class of 2024, Sharon’s current goal is to organize her class’s upcoming Match Day celebrations in March and Senior Banquet celebrations in May. Before starting her residency, she also hopes to visit her family in Ghana.

Once she finishes her residency, one of Sharon’s primary goals as a podiatrist is to help establish a teaching hospital in Sub-Saharan Africa that will both provide medical care to individuals who need it as well as train new doctors in a variety of specialties, including podiatry. To do this, however, Sharon first plans to help raise awareness about podiatric medicine and the need for international accreditation.

TUSPM congratulates Sharon for her award and wishes her even more success in her future as a podiatrist.