221020 CM FootScience Team C12677 v2

Dr Bob Eckles

Foot Science International

Bob Eckles followed an injured foot in the late ’70s to a career in podiatry, finishing training in California in 1984. After several years as the “orthotic guy” at Marin Foot Health Centre and as foot surgeon to those unfortunate enough to be incarcerated in the State Penal system, he migrated to New Zealand which proved to be hugely formative both personally and professionally. Bob is married to an extraordinary woman- Jeanne and has 2 children, Molly and Freeman, both now in New Zealand as well.

A few Kiwi podiatrists will recall his days at the CIT, but while he was fairly active as a surgeon in those days in NZ, it wasn’t till he returned to New York in 1997 that he reclaimed a role in the education of podiatrists, and especially in the area of biomechanics. He joined the faculty of the New York College of Podiatric Medicine and in 2004 became Associate Dean and Director of the 3-year post-graduate foot and ankle surgery residency program. Outside the college, he became a board member of the National Board of Podiatric Medical Examiners and Chair of the New York State Education Department Podiatrists Board.

Today, Bob is thrilled to be associated with FSI and to work to advance the cause and science of foot and leg mechanics. In his words "Foot and leg mechanics is one thing that distinguishes podiatrists in the health care economy: the unique expertise which should inform foot surgery, wound care and sports medicine and of which we should truly be loud and proud to own."

Questions & Answers

Q. Why did you choose podiatry?
A. I was originally motivated to become a doctor or a surgeon. A running injury led me to seek treatment and I was enthralled by the treatment I received. There was a running boom in the ’70s, so podiatry became a lifeline to those people to keep them running, post-injury, or as injury prevention. 18 months after my own injury I was enrolled in the California College of Podiatric Medicine.
Q. Who has been your main inspiration in podiatry?
A. My main inspiration has been Dr Ron Valmassy, who was a tutor at university. He was a kind, thoughtful practitioner and a supportive mentor.
Q. What is the most common condition you treat?
A. Plantar Heel Pain, diabetic foot.
Q. What has been the most unusual condition you have seen?
A. Tuberculous Osteomyelitis, a rare side effect of systemic Tuberculosis.
Q. What is your favourite treatment that gets the best result?
A. I love using biomechanical treatments to treat foot pain. When I moved to NZ originally I didn’t have the same access to medicines and surgical treatments as I had in California, so I had to explore the potential of mechanical therapies and was impressed with the outcomes. This experience coupled with developing literature allowed me to present a mechanically based or prioritised treatment algorithm to my students in NY, most of whom saw all things through a surgical lens
Q. What advice would you give your newly qualified self?
A. Do everything exactly as you did it. What I did, or didn’t do, in my past has led me to where I am today.
Q. What are you most proud of in your career?
A. I’m proud of the thought that over a thousand podiatrists have been through my classes and clinics and have taken a small piece of me into their careers.
Q. What would people be surprised to know about you?
A. That I have six toes on my left foot?... this isn’t actually true, however.
What is true is that I/we live in a campervan in this lovely country, and have no real address, which is an interesting thing at this age.
Q. What’s the funniest thing that has happened with a patient?
A. Well, in the days before tinfoil hats became common, there was the guy who wrapped his shoes in tinfoil to protect the tendons from “ radiation interference”… I could not provide the care he needed.

I once had a guy come in with foot pain and a strange lump in his foot- this was at the CIT clinic in Upper Hutt, actually. The x-ray showed an amorphous mass. When I opened up his foot, I found a lump of rubber from his jandals which had been forced into his foot when he stood on a sharp object. An inclusion cyst had formed around the material- a real Kiwi kind of pathology.
Q. What can a new podiatrist do to connect with the profession?
A. My advice would be to assess yourself against a particular standard of care. Ask yourself “What don’t I know?” “What do I need to learn to make myself a better practitioner?”
“Who can help me set goals?” Access to objective information is so easy now, that everyone should feel supported and included in many different conversations, regardless of their personal interests.
Also, find a good role model and ask them what do they do that makes both them and their patients happy, or better yet, watch them!.
Q. Who’s the most famous person you have treated, you are allowed to mention?
A. I once treated an infamous serial killer called Ed Kemper who killed at least 10 people, while I was treating prison inmates. You may know him from the Netflix series “Mindhunter”.