Get To Know Your NYC Foot Surgeon: Dr. Josef J. Geldwert
Posted by admin on Monday, April 10th, 2017
Here is the second interview in our “Get To Know Your NYC Foot Surgeon” series (if you missed the first, you can learn more about Dr. Mariola Rivera here). In today’s feature, we shine a spotlight on leading NYC podiatrist and foot/ankle surgeon, Dr. Josef J. Geldwert, who also happens to be the founder of The Center For Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine! He answers both serious and fun questions so you can get to know more about him and feel comfortable when you come to our Manhattan or White Plains podiatry office.
What first inspired you to get involved in the medical field? How did you end up choosing to specialize in podiatry?
I’ve always had this desire to keep people going and active. I’m very active myself. I’ve run marathons. I’ve gone hiking in the Alps in the Eastern Sierras. I had always been a sports enthusiast—played soccer, basketball, ran track and field. I soon realized that health plays an enormous part in individual and team success. That was what led to my overall interest in sports medicine. I like keeping people moving and healthy.
I was inspired by a friend who went to school to study the foot and ankle. What a crucial role these parts play in a person’s overall health! The foot and ankle serve as the body’s foundation to the ground, and my feeling was that if I could heal the foot and ankle, then I could influence the entire body’s health.
The surgical aspect is one that always fascinated me. I studied foot and ankle reconstructive surgery earlier in my career. I studied with what, at the time, was the best program in the country. We would see 25-30 cases a day in the Chicago area, so it was very intensive, high-level training. I also worked with the team podiatrist for the Chicago White Sox, Bears, and Bulls. So I was very involved in working with athletes and sports medicine fairly early on [in my career].
More recently, I’ve been involved in the design of orthotic devices and working with a 3D printing company to make the best type of orthotics. Part of what makes my centers unique is my commitment to staying on the cutting edge and using technology to advance the practice.
What inspired you to open your own practice?
I wanted to get back to New York and New Jersey, where I had family living. At the time, New York was a bit of a wasteland for specialized foot and ankle surgery. There were many opportunities to get involved with the local NYC sports community. For instance, I’ve helped establish the medical team for the NYC Marathon from the ground up.
One of my first offices was on 96th Street, right off 5th Avenue. So it was a stone’s throw from Central Park. It’s a great place to train and to work. There were many times when I would practice while wearing a lab coat over shorts and a tee shirt! When I worked with runners, I would use Central Park as my research environment, so I could watch them run and observe the ways in which their bodies moved.
Now, in our offices, we have computerized treadmills, which have 5,000 pressure sensors embedded so we can get comprehensive data on how the patient is moving. It’s much more scientific. Whenever I look at someone’s foot problem, nothing is taken in isolation. The foot influences the knee, hip, and back—and they, in turn, influence the foot and ankle. I feel it’s important to examine patients dynamically so your exam won’t be limited to sitting in a chair. I’ll ask you to get up and move.
What are some of the most common medical issues that you encounter and treat?
I see a lot of individuals with inherited structural problems such as bunions, flat feet, and hammer toes. These individuals come to us with problems that they didn’t cause or acquire; it’s just how their bodies are built. So for these patients, we see a lot of realignment or reconstructive surgery.
We also see lots of athletes with varying problems, ranging from plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis to problems with the knees, lower back stiffness, and other issues that can be traced back to the foot and ankle. Lots of our patients play tennis, squash, basketball, or lacrosse. These individuals have overuse problems, musculo-tendon issues, and joint related problems.
We don’t just put you in a cast or boot and send you on your way. My philosophy is to keep people moving. We use a lot of the more sophisticated techniques. We have musculoskeletal lasers, stem cell injections, PRP therapy. We try to use whatever is out there that has proven to have therapeutic value.
What are some of the most unusual medical issues you’ve encountered over the years?
People come to us with a lot of unique structural problems. I’ve done a number of cases with young women who have webbed toes, which they felt very self-conscious about. It’s more of a cosmetic problem than a functional issue, but we can perform a procedure to de-syndactylize and separate the toes.
By the same token, we have a lot of patients who come to us with congenital short bones; one condition is brachymetatarsia, which involves one toe that’s significantly shorter than the others. Usually, it’s the fourth toe. So we’ll do a bone lengthening procedure to realign and lengthen the bone by cutting through the bone and gradually lengthening the bone with external fixators.
What is your favorite type of patient? What types of medical issues do you find most interesting or rewarding?
I find people interesting. I love the interaction with patients; every patient is different. That’s the most interesting aspect for me; that’s what makes practice more exciting for me. They come with problems. A lot of the problems we see can be recognized very early on in the interaction.
I love challenging cases involving patients who’ve gone to three or four other places. It’s especially fulfilling to help those patients who have been searching for an effective treatment. There’s also not a week that goes by that I don’t see another physician—as a patient!
Who are your most challenging patients?
Chronic Achilles tendon problems are very common but also very difficult to resolve. You have to be creative. Congenital flat feet are another challenge, as there are a number of different surgical procedures to reconstruct a painful flat foot. So it’s a matter of determining the best course of treatment for a particular patient. We also deal with lot of active kids. It can be hard to establish treatment protocols that they will follow, so we have to be creative in motivating kids to be consistent with their exercises, stretches, or other aspects of their therapy.
What is the best piece of advice that you dispense to patients?
First, I tell my active patients to keep a diary of their activities. There will be a point in their diary that will give you a clue as to the cause of injury. Second, athletes always need to check their footwear. People like to stay with their running shoe or athletic sneaker for a bit longer than what’s ideal. When they get a new shoe, they should write the date on the shoe. Then, in three to four months, examine the wear patterns to see if the shoe is starting to break down and deteriorate in certain areas. Third, I also try to tell my elderly patients to stay mobile and flexible. I recommend exercises to keep them mobile, or I may direct them toward programs like yoga and Pilates.
What personality traits help you excel at work?
I have a very persevering, dogged desire to keep people healthy. I have a lot of persistence! It’s rare for me to give up.
I enjoy figuring out complex problems, particularly those that can be solved in a simplistic way. Complex problems don’t always require complex solutions, so it’s rewarding to solve problems in a simple, straightforward way.
I’m good with consistency, and I try to be as detail-oriented as possible. I have protocols that I’ve established, and I like to follow those. If you have protocol that’s successful, that protocol can be reproduced.
A few things most patients don’t know are that…
I have patents on several surgical devices. I just finished the product design on one new device that’s designed to correct bunions without cutting the bone. So it’s a potentially revolutionary device.
I have a number of orthotic device design patents.
I consult to a company that private labels foot care products that are carried at CVS. You’ll see that many of these product labels say that the product is designed and endorsed by The Center for Podiatric Sports Medicine.
I’m also involved in teaching at Mount Sinai Medical Center.
And a few fun questions!
What’s your favorite way to spend a day off?
I exercise. I always try to start five out of seven days with exercise. I enjoy running, power walking, cycling, weights. I’ll work out for an hour or so. I also enjoy tinkering in the kitchen, cooking.
What was the last thing you watched on TV?
I’m a big fan of the original series on Amazon and Netflix like Man in the High Castle and Noble.
What’s your favorite type of food?
Oh, I like any good food. Who doesn’t like Italian? I also enjoy Japanese, Middle Eastern…anything with interesting spices and flavors. I especially enjoy food that’s presented in a creative way. I’ve done a number of tastings with chefs.
What is your favorite vacation destination?
We had a great time in Peru, even though it’s underwater right now! That area has seen some extensive flooding.
I’ve also gone to southern Italy a number of times.
I love the Swiss and French Alps. Europe is always wonderful.
I’ve gone on safari in Tanzania and Kenya.
Do you have any pets or children?
No pets, but I have five children.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?
There are two things that I follow in my life: “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”
I also believe that you need to “Keep it simple.” Look for simple solutions to complex problems.
Lastly, what’s one thing patients are surprised to learn about you?
My age! I’ve been doing this a long time. I’m going to be 70. People are always surprised to learn my age.
If you’re suffering from a foot or ankle ailment, turn to some of the top NY foot surgeons! Request your foot/ankle consultation with Dr. Josef J. Geldwert at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine in NYC by clicking here.
If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine. Dr. Josef J. Geldwert, Dr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.