Student Articles

Getting to Know: Dr. Bradley Schaeffer

By Ali Fadel
KSUCPM Class of 2022

Never knowing the word “quit” can lead to achieving great success within one’s medical career and the perfect example of such a mentality comes from Dr. Bradley Schaeffer.  A podiatric medical doctor that currently practices in Hillsborough, NJ, Dr. Bradley Schaeffer has overcome many odds and defeats to reach where he is today; a physician, role model, and media sensation.  Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard, and Dr. Schaeffer is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to his mentality and perseverance.
Growing up 40 minutes away from Philadelphia in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, Dr. Schaeffer comes from a blue-collar family with both his parents consistently working and was the only one in his family to attend medical school. Being a first-generation medical student at Temple University School of Podiatry, Dr. Schaeffer utilized his humbling beginnings and collegiate sports background to not only craft the mentality for success but develop the work ethic required to overcome all odds in his academic and professional careers. Dr. Schaeffer is now a social media sensation on Instagram, a participant on Dwyane “The Rock” Johnson’s “The Titan Games” on NBC, and has a potentially upcoming television show on TLC named “My Feet Are Killing Me.” Despite his thriving popularity, Dr. Schaeffer’s modesty and intellect never left his side during his day-to-day podiatric medical practice nor during this interview.
Q: “So let’s get started with the basics, how did you get into podiatry?”
A: “Well, I grew up 40 minutes away from Philadelphia in Pottstown outside the suburbs and had the opportunity to go to Palm Beach Atlantic University in Florida to play baseball for undergrad. I had initially wanted to be a pharmacist, but after spending time in pharmacies during college, I realized I had no passion for it. I never had an ‘Aha!’ moment with podiatry. I played sports all my life including soccer, basketball, and baseball. I knew anatomy from my background in sports and I also knew I’m good with my hands. I had heard about a podiatrist and what he did with his profession, so I decided to apply. I had a decision to make between Temple [University School of Podiatry] and Barry [School of Podiatric Medicine]. Temple was my first choice because it was closer to home and family is a big part of my life.”
Q: “Did a background in sports help you become a better student during your time at Temple?”
A: “Definitely. Sports gave me the work ethic to develop my drive needed to study. My work ethic came from my mom and dad. I grew up from a blue-collar household. My father was an electrician and was always on-call, and my mother was always busy with her job, too. Studying came from my parents because they instilled a lot of my determination at a young age. My competitive edge does come from my sports background, though.”
Q: “How was your experience during podiatric medical school?”
A: “Well, I chose to commute to school so I lived in my parents’ basement at the time. Conversely, my friends had the money to live on campus. I definitely don’t recommend doing what I did if you have the option not to [laughs]. I commuted an hour a day to Philadelphia because of traffic. The people at school were different than what I was used to. I was surrounded by all these scholastically driven and intellectual students that I have never been around before. One thing I want to say is that we don’t need to be so rigid! There is no need for that in our society or our profession. I was used to being part of a team working together to reach the same goal. Medical school was divided due to competition, externship was competitive, and residency was competitive. There’s just no need for that division in our profession as we are all in the same specialty.”
Q: “You have spoken about how you overcame failures to reach where you are today. What was the biggest hurdle thus far in your academic or professional career? Do you have any advice for someone who is facing the same thing?”
A: “My biggest setback was the board exams. The reason why I am who I am today is because of that setback. I thought I knew who I was until then. I did well in college scholastically. I did well in medical school, too. I thought I would pass the boards on my first try, no questions asked. I needed to study so hard for them. I would drive at 3 A.M. for an hour every morning while trying to maintain my marriage. It definitely humbled me. I cannot rep hard work and perseverance any more than I do. If you’re past the point that you know you want to be a podiatrist and want to treat patients, then there are no other options. Get up earlier, work harder. [Board Exams] are another phase of the weeding out process. Exam 1, 2, 3, residency, licensure, medical and surgical boards. We continue to divide each other and that never made sense to me. We do need these hurdles to weed out people, but there are still a lot of hurdles and I think it’s a little ridiculous.”
Q: “What about any advice for the upcoming graduating students that will begin residency soon?”
A: “Perseverance is key. My biggest advice will always be perseverance. I never quit and neither should you. If you fail once, twice, or three times. It doesn’t matter. If you fail a year, keep going. You need to know that you can achieve anything. I have a friend who was kicked out of residency. It took him a while to come back. He externed and did what he had to do to get back in, and he did. Rough patches are always there. Ride the wave of life, adapt to it, and you can truly get to where you want to be. It’s a rollercoaster. Sometimes you have the best surgery you could have asked for, and sometimes you have complications.
Another piece of advice is people are going to drill you hard in residency. ‘Why are your hands shaking?’ or ‘why don’t you do this?’ Block out that noise and focus on yourself. Unfortunately, this is not a team environment and everyone in our field of profession is pretty divisive. We should all do our best to build that team format and work together. I never understood why nurses gave residents a hard time and why residents gave students a hard time. How can we grow if we are so divisive?”
Q: “What do you think is a strength of podiatric medical school compared to allopathic and osteopathic programs?”
A: “You go right into your specialty. There is no playing around. With the M.D. and D.O. programs, you work towards a lot of different options, but nothing is definitive. I knew what I wanted to do and that was become a foot and ankle surgeon. It is a streamline process to cut to the chase. We are way better trained for the ankle and foot, and I would want to go against anyone who says they’re better in that field than us.”
Q: “We have noticed a recent decline in podiatric medical school applications, what do you think we can do better or different to change that?”
A: “Get the word out! I’m still telling people what podiatry is. It’s embarrassing. I’m on social media spreading the word on our profession. It’s about being a podiatric surgeon and spreading health, wellness, and positivity to our patients and our communities. That’s another thing that is important. Go into different communities and do outreach services. I do not know why the world does not know what podiatry is at this point. People ask me if I’m a ‘child doctor’ [laughs]. Yes, sometimes I cut toenails and trim calluses and people ask me, ‘why did you get into this?’ It’s not the only thing I do. It is a part of my job, and I do it because I love doing my job. Another part of my job is organizing my schedule to perform most of my surgeries on a designated day per week. We are no longer restricted to cutting toenails and removing calluses. That is called being a chiropodist and that is in the past. On the other hand, that is all the patients see which is the problem. I am excited about this potential TV show with TLC because it will educate the people.”
Q: “How did you get a TV show?”
A: “Spreading the word on Instagram and being a part of The Titan Games. TLC reached out to me while The Titan Games was going on. It was my wildest dream, and I needed somebody to pinch me because it was nuts. It was partly luck, but I do put in a lot of hard work and time into my profession and spreading the word of our profession. I have always been a strong advocate for being honest, humble, and true to yourself. That definitely resonated with the people on Instagram as I built my followers. I was very open about my setbacks on The Titan Games. I did not hire an agent or a trainer. The Titan Games contacted me because I worked hard every day. This is who I am. I am a podiatrist and I want to showcase this because I love it.”
Q: “Which parts of your job do you find most enjoyable?”
A: “The patients. I was cutting the nails of this older gentleman one day during work and he said, ‘the littlest thing you just did to me, you helping me, helping me walk and be free of pain, means so much to me.’ It made me stop, look at him, and realize that is the coolest thing anyone has ever said to me. I live by my parents’ words of ‘do it with all your might.’ Even if it’s the smaller things. It can range from surgery on an athlete or a child with a wart. As long as we cured and helped them, that is the coolest thing about the profession for any doctor, not just podiatry and that is how it should be. ‘To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.’ Henry David Thoreau said that, and I stand by it.
Q: “What about most challenging?”
A: “Patients are challenging and demanding, too. You’re trying to treat them to the best of your ability, but sometimes you can’t help them and have to refer them out for their comorbidities. If you’re honest with yourself, you have to refer out some patients to truly help them to the fullest. It is not a negative thing. It is actually a team aspect of our profession. Don’t be a hero. Your job is the patient!”
Q: “What’s on your Bucket List of things to do?”
A: “I want to continue to build and cultivate happiness within myself, my family, and my practice. I want to continue to build on top of what I am doing now. Whatever happiness I have within myself, I want to treat my patients with that same happiness. In general, treat the people the way they want to be treated.”
Q: “Which person gave you the best advice within your life?”
A: “My grandfather. When I was around 10 or 11 years-old, I was hanging around the wrong type of crowd. They would light things on fire and do stupid things. Nothing crazy, mostly leaves or something. One day, my grandfather saw us in a backyard as I was following them and yelled at me to get into his car and drove home. On the way home, he pulled over, looked at me, and said, ‘you are better than that nonsense. You’re a leader and you just showed them you’re a follower.’ The truest thing in my heart was what he said in that carpool moment.” 
Q: “Last but never least, where do you see our profession within ten years?”
A: “I can honestly ask you the same question! I am currently part of a private practice in New Jersey. My best friend was part of a group then a hospital bought them out. He is now enjoying the fruits of his buyout with a good amount of 401K. What I am trying to say is within podiatry, you’re going to find a place where you fit in medicine. If you want to be a part of an ortho group, you can join an ortho group. If you want to delve into private practice, you can do that, too. You can just be smiling, happy, and energetic like I am. I assign most of my surgeries to one dedicated day a week. If you want to have the structure of a hospital system, you can have that, too. My answer to your question is: everything. Our profession has every aspect and it’s your choice in the end. Pick what you want to do and go where your skills best fit you. Podiatry’s strength is its ability to provide options within its own specialty. It’s your decision which options are for you.”
On behalf of APMSA, thank you Dr. Bradley Schaeffer for your time, wisdom, and transparency. A man from small-town Pottstown, Pennsylvania has shown us what not giving up on ourselves can lead to. Perseverance and drive shall take any current and future podiatrist further than they had imagined. To answer his returned question, the future of podiatry in ten years can only grow from here. As we advance as a profession, we must build upon each other’s work and become a team of podiatric medical professionals that puts the patients’ health first. As Sir Isaac Newton once said, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Follow Dr. Schaeffer on Instagram via @doctor.bradley and remember to catch his prospective new show “My Feet Are Killing Me” on TLC when it airs!

"The American Podiatric Medical Students’ Association is the national, student-led organization that serves as the collective voice for all podiatric medical students. We are committed to the protection and advancement of student rights and interests by advocating in legislative and educational arenas. We provide resources to our members to assist them throughout their education as they transition into podiatric residents and physicians."