CPM Alumnus Talks Passion and Podiatry in Guam
Hafa Adai – this is the greeting that Kent State University College of Podiatric Medicine (KSUCPM) class of 2007 alumni Dr. Dustin Prins gives his patients every day. It is the Chamorro phrase for “hello”, in the native language of Guam where Dr. Prins has called home for the past four years. So, how does one graduate in 2007, begin a successful career as an American podiatrist, and wind up thriving in practice on a remote island less than a decade later? KSUCPM had the pleasure of catching up with Dr. Prins via email to get the scoop on his path to podiatry through passion, and how his conviction has led him to a life in the middle of the Philippine Sea.
Question (Q): Give us a little bit of your background! What was your career like prior to your move to Guam?
Answer (A): I am originally from a small town in Idaho. In deep gratitude to my parents who instilled it in me, I’m proud to say I grew up with a strong work ethic. What drew me to podiatry was not necessarily the foot/ankle/lower extremity, but rather it was the fact of serving others beyond myself. There is a deep seeded challenge that I humbly accept each morning when I wake up to serve others to the best of my ability in the field of podiatry.
I was blessed with a great career in podiatry before I came to Guam. I started out with my training at the former Ohio College of Podiatric Medicine (now KSUCPM) and was blessed to be a part of an outstanding reconstructive/trauma, yet also clinic-based foot/ankle three-year residency in Iowa. I devote much of my active learning from the outstanding attendings that I had there. They all taught me not to simply look at things at face value, but to reason with a strong foundational approach.
I was then honored to be selected for the United States Navy through a scholarship program, where I served our active duty military personnel to keep them active and directly functional in order to continue to perform their respective jobs. Following my commitment with the military, I spent a small amount of time with a multi-specialty group, served as Assistant Professor at KSUCPM (under the direction of Dean Allan Boike, DPM), and one year as Assistant Residency Director under Dr. Steven Brancheau in Texas. I devote much of who I am professionally to all the men and women that have taken time to help train me to be the board-certified foot and ankle surgeon that I am through these experiences.
Q: What were the deciding factors in moving to Guam?
A: This was definitely a crossroads for me, not only professionally, but also personally considering my family. Although I believed I was making a difference in the lives of young practitioners, I felt like I was giving too much of myself for the profession, withholding that same devoted attention from my family. I went through a period of professional depression; it was a time that it is still difficult to talk about. I could no longer articulate what my passion was for podiatry, which was a difficult reality, as I had sought and taught my students and residents to do just that. It was only through the grace of God that He took this time period and all that had happened in my life and brought me to the island of Guam. To this day it is difficult for me to be vulnerable as a doctor, but I know that the more the patient can see that a doctor is also a human being with respective vulnerabilities, the better the transparency of care that is needed in a doctor/patient relationship.
I can honestly tell you that all of my past experiences, including the education and active learning that was humbly instilled in me by some great physicians and mentors along the way, have led me to this incredible opportunity on the great island of Guam back in 2016; the place I now call home.
Q: Explain the work that you’re doing in Guam. What are the patients like?
A: Podiatry is podiatry, but in Guam, podiatry is so relevant to a grand large majority of the population; figures on record show over 60% of its over 170,000 citizens are diabetic. The variety of work environments are here, as well; there are hospitals (both public and private), private clinic, and even multi-specialty clinic work environments within the profession.
I am very humbled and blessed by being with my patients; they are so very appreciative for good care and when a doctor shows the humility and intellect to do what is right for their health. I am one of five podiatrists on the Island.
Q: What does a typical day look like for you?
A:A typical day for me is rooted in priorities. What I mean by that is I have the ultimate goal of first spending time with my wife and family. I then will spend time at the hospital and private clinic. I also am on an on-call rotation at the public hospital. Finally, I volunteer my time for various service commitments for the community as well. There are many days when I say my prayers at night thinking , ‘Wow what a day’, although every day is relevant and eternally driven.
Q: What motivates you?
A: When I look at the redeeming nature of my Father in Heaven I look at the pieces he has formed in my life to get where I am today. I give the glory, honor, and praise to Him for landing me and my family here in Guam. I am so deeply humbled by this opportunity that I do not take it at all for granted, but in each moment work like it might be my last. My wife and I have also undertaken an opportunity to be foster parents for four Island children in conjunction with our own three biological children. This has truly stretched us but it definitely goes hand-in-hand with my original mission that drove me to be a podiatrist in the first place.
Q: What should alumni and current students consider if they feel called to a career in podiatry outside of the continental United States?
A: To live in a place as remote as this, especially outside of the continental United States, one must be prepared to be a “Macgyver” of sorts. One must learn how to do much with little: surgical technology is definitely not up to the standards of the continental United States; private insurance companies, while similar, are not the same as those in the continental United States; and supplies are difficult to come by on an island that is so remote that it is over an eight-hour plane trip from Hawaii. All of that aside, the opportunity to be creative and to serve wonderful, grateful people who are continually seeking self-education for their health is so very attractive. If you are thinking of working outside the continental United States, I truly feel that you must have the training and experience to be able to do “old school” techniques to the best of your ability: just like you would if you had access to the next best locking plate set or new titanium grafts. Challenging for sure, but the gratification so outweighs the negatives.
It’s an interesting thought to encourage someone to work away from family, such as what I did, potentially on a remote island where you may not have all of the tools in the toolbox that you were trained with in residency. My advice for doing something like I am doing - or to even go on a mission trip to serve in places where there is a great number of people in need of our expertise - is to do it outside of yourself. Be a servant leader. Look back on why you why you went into the field of podiatry in the first place. Look within and you may find it greater to serve others before yourself.
Q: What do you see for your future?
A:I used to be one of those who would always write out a 30-day, one year, five-year, and ten-year plan. After all that we have gone through, since we embarked on the journey with the profession of podiatry back in 2003, we now stay eternally focused on the present. This is not cliché but it is one deeply rooted to the fact that we will continue to serve wherever we are called to serve. Every moment is a moment that I can look back on to ask myself, “Did I make a difference for someone today?”.
So, to answer your question regarding our future, I honestly cannot tell you. What I do know, is that I am so happy with where we are at today.