Justin Chong

Bigfoot Podiatry

I graduated from CIT, Wellington, with the first group in NZ, with a Bachelor of Health Science (podiatry). I had more fun in the hostel than actual learning and studied with some great podiatrists who have done fantastic work in the profession. I returned to Auckland, as this was the only place that would employ me, working under Bob Eckles (now isn’t that a story in itself, that he is back in NZ as FSI’s medical director). I worked part-time with Bob, made orthotics from the garage, and sold shoes for Smiths Sports Shoes. I did various contract work for pods in Auckland to fill my week, which allowed me to meet colleagues and was a good introduction to podiatry. When Bob decided to head offshore, I took over his clinic, as I couldn’t get employment, or I would be out of a job! I always said if I failed at a clinic, I would head overseas for an OE – being young and naive was probably a blessing, now that I look back on it. I guess you can say the OE never eventuated, and it’s been head-down-ass-up ever since!
Outside of work, my time is spent with my wife and daughter, who is a constant reminder that work is not everything. I certainly subscribe to the – “work hard during the week and play harder afterwards” doctrine. To release the pressure, getting into the forest for a mountain bike/run has always been a circuit breaker and leveller to keep me in the present.

Why did you choose podiatry?

It wasn’t actually a choice. I was going to do a gap year overseas, and then someone mentioned podiatry, so I visited a few clinics, and the thought of studying in Wellington was appealing. When someone dropped out, I was accepted, 3 days out from the course, after a phone interview. It was a fast-paced trip to Wellington from Auckland. As it turns out, it was a great decision, and I have stayed in the profession my whole career.

Q. Who has been your main inspiration in podiatry?
A. My team has always inspired me, and I have always learnt from others. Watching past and present, staff progress and excel in what they do. Employing staff is a big commitment, and as long as they stay in the profession, I hope I have done my part in supporting their career.
Q. What is the most common condition you treat?
A. Plantar heel pain is always a regular visitor to the clinic.
Q. What has been the most unusual condition you have seen?
A. Two come to mind. A Van Nes Rotationplasty, following a tumour removal, and, also, a refugee who had a mine severely damaged his lower leg.
Q. What is your favourite treatment, that gets the best result?
A. A good beer for my head after a week’s work always helps me. As for my clients….stay calm, time heals, and we can't solve everything.
Q. What advice would you give your newly qualified self?
A. Meet other medical professionals outside podiatry, and learn from them. They have a lot to offer us.
Q. What are you most proud of in your career?
A. Seeing all my past and present staff thriving in the profession as confident contributors to the healthcare system.
Other than that, I used to work in complex wound care, and getting a big hug after saving a diabetic limb has always stood out as making a true difference in someone’s life.
Q. What would people be surprised to know about you?
A. I raced a mountain bike in Canada, climbing 10000m over 300km, and I even came across a brown bear!
Q. What’s the funniest thing that has happened with a patient?
A. A keen runner ran out the door for a 20km run, in his wife’s running shoes, which were 2 sizes too small, and wondered why his foot was so sore afterwards. I still can’t fathom how he did that – true story!
Q. What can a new podiatrist do to connect with the profession?
A. Reach out and have a chat, find a colleague you can use as a sounding board, and never stop learning.
Q. Who’s the most famous person you have treated, you are allowed to mention?
A. Have seen a large number of famous people from the business, and sporting worlds. Lydia Ko, (former world No 1-ranked woman professional golfer) would have to be the most famous on a global stage).