Up Close with Dr. Jonathan Huey
Get to know Dr. Huey better as he speaks about his journey, purpose, and philosophy as a person, physician, and the owner of Bay Area Foot & Laser Podiatry Group.
So let’s jump right in and start with a broad question. What is your philosophy of life?
A.To live a moral, purpose-driven life. Podiatry lets me live that life every day. I love what I do and I really do take joy in coming to work every day.
What a wonderful view and attitude. As a doctor, what inspires you?
A.As human beings, we all have room to grow. When we’re mindful, we can learn so much from each other, and our interactions become that much more meaningful. That’s why I would say my individual experiences with my patients are what inspire me to be a better doctor and a better person.
I knew from an early age that I wanted to comfort people.
What influenced you to begin a career in healthcare, and more specifically, Podiatry?
A.Thinking back to when I was a kid, I remember that special feeling of being comforted when my mom would make me chicken soup to feed my colds or when my dad would bandage my scuffed knees or elbows. Back then, I also spent a lot of time with my grandpa and grandma who owned a coffee shop on the other side of the tracks. I remember they never turned away anyone who was hungry and couldn’t afford a meal.
I knew from an early age that I wanted to comfort people. My parents recognized this and thought I would be good at helping others. I believe my compassion comes from witnessing their simple acts of kindness and the difference it made in people’s lives. I was always drawn to the idea of healthcare but I didn’t know I wanted to become a podiatrist until after college.
What is your educational background? Did it shape you in a meaningful way?
A.I received my Bachelor’s of Science degree in Biological Sciences from U.C. Davis with minors in Music and English. While I was there, I also volunteered at Kaiser Permanente for a number of years.
During my post-baccalaureate program at San Francisco State University, I became a teaching assistant for Human Anatomy. That’s when I discovered another one of my passions: teaching. I love teaching and spreading knowledge. I find that it weaves in perfectly with my role as Podiatrist. Not only am I providing hands-on treatment, I’m educating my patients to help them lead healthier lives.
Do you have any unique experiences that aided you to pursue your career?
A.You know, in college, I had really big aspirations and I wanted to save the world. To get a better picture of what the world needed, I traveled to Kenya on a medical trip. There, I stayed and worked at Sister Freda’s Medical Center, visited the county hospital, and got a taste of how people lived outside of the United States. It really opened my eyes.
I turned my attention to malaria when I learned it was one of the top five reasons for death in Third World countries. Malaria is caused by mosquitoes that are diseased with a certain parasite. I felt the need to do something about it so I gathered raw materials to mosquito-proof the small hospital by putting up insect screens on all the windows.
More importantly, I was sowing a seed. Simple ideas put in action can ripple—and that was my goal—for other hospitals in the area to start using insect screens to prevent the spread and subsequent deaths caused by the disease.
Tell us a little bit about your doctorate and your residency program?
A.I received my Doctorate from the California School of Podiatric Medicine at Samuel Merritt University in Oakland. And then, my wife Jodi and I packed our bags, donned our heavy parkas, and headed to the Windy City of Chicago where I started my new job as a resident physician at Presence/AMITA Saint Joseph Hospital. It was exciting. In my residency, I developed and honed my surgical skills and performed a lot of advanced surgeries including nerve surgeries.
You mentioned earlier about the joy of going to work. What exactly makes you excited about heading to the office?
A.I love treating people and helping them. Every day, I feel like I’m living a purposeful life and developing positive karma. I’m blessed to say I work in the healthcare field. I feel like I’m really making a difference in people’s lives.
I love that each patient comes in with a potential puzzle for me to solve, and I get to figure out the cause of their problem so I can cure them. The most satisfying thing for me is when patients come into my office with pain and they leave without it.
You say you love what you do. What is it about Podiatry that you love so much?
A.I really love helping people walk again. People don’t realize how important their feet are until they can’t walk anymore. I love that I can work on all aspects of the foot and ankle. I’m fully aware of what I can and cannot do. So if I think they might be better served by a different doctor or specialty, then I’m happy to refer them. I’m here to help people live the lives that they want, and I love that I can be an instrument in that process.
I love meeting new people and listening to their stories and learning from their life experiences. It keeps me humble, which is a space that I like to keep myself in. I don’t mean to make my profession sound less than it is, but it’s only the foot. I do perform life-altering surgeries—some of which are elective—but it’s not open heart surgery, for example. As a side note, I’ve assisted in and even held a beating heart in my hands. All in all, it’s humbling to know that another human being is trusting me with their lives—and that gives me purpose, which makes me love my job even more.
Having the humility to be at an equal level with my patients allows me to listen to them fully and give them the attention they deserve.
What do you think are the most important qualities to have as a podiatrist?
A.Knowledge is the most important thing in medicine. You can’t be a dummy. Without knowledge, you can really hurt someone. Experience is also very important—that’s why we spend 11 years after high school learning medicine. The next quality that’s important is empathy. Patients are hurting and they want to get better. Sometimes you have to hurt them more to get them better, and that’s scary—think of injecting their toe with anesthesia and performing surgery on them.
Humility is also very important. My residency focused heavily on surgery but for a good number of my patients today, I also trim their toenails which I equally take pride and joy in doing. Sometimes, doctors are seen as high and elite, and this causes a barrier to excellent patient care. Having the humility to be at an equal level with my patients allows me to listen to them fully and give them the attention they deserve. Patience is also key—sometimes people just need to be heard.
What would you like people to know about your treatment philosophy?
A.I’d like them to know that I treat my patients the same way I would treat my family. It explains why, even though I’m surgically trained, I’m more conservative in my approach. All surgeries have a 2% rate of complications, such as: infection, adverse reaction to the anesthesia, the condition not improving, prolonged pain, bleeding, nerve damage, scarring. Because of this, I always start off treating my patients non-surgically, unless I have no other options and delaying surgery would make the problem worse.
Can you elaborate on your approach with patients and why it matters to how you treat them?
A.Well, I always come back to humility. I always remember that a patient is not a pair of feet, but rather a human being. This sounds silly, but when you see feet all day, you can start to focus on only the feet.
When I enter the room, patients want to jump in and tell me about their foot problem. I take a moment and say, “Before we talk about your feet, how are YOU doing?” Patients generally appreciate this. Doctors usually never ask this and most times, patients are pleasantly surprised. I ask because I’m genuinely interested. It helps me build rapport with my patients and it helps my patients see me as a person, too.
I like to define myself as “old school” when it comes to cultivating doctor/patient relationships.
Why should someone choose you as his or her podiatrist over another?
A.Good question. Having knowledge about the foot and ankle is already presumed. So in that respect, I’m just as excellent as other qualified podiatrists. Hopefully, what sets me apart is my deep understanding of knowing what patients really want. I stray away from treating patients throughout the day like they are parts on an assembly line—which is how I feel medicine is moving toward unfortunately.
I take pride in bringing it back to the old school days. When it comes to cultivating doctor/patient relationships, I like to define myself as “old school.” I don’t rush and I take the time to listen to my patients to make sure they’re feeling heard. I do my best to get to know them and learn from them, too.
Most importantly though, I am excellent in treating foot problems—especially after patients have seen other providers. This has been the case multiple times where I’m the second, or third, or fourth physician they’ve seen, and I’m finally the one that solves their problem.
Do you have any parting thoughts that you’d like to leave us with about Bay Area Foot & Laser Podiatry Group?
A.I want people to know we are a small private practice with great big hearts. When they come in to see us, they should know that they’re the most important people in the room and they’re respected. I want them to leave knowing we were kind to them and we cared for them as human beings regardless of their backgrounds or beliefs. And when they call us, I want them to know we will always have their best interests at heart.