At the time, there were so many general practitioners in Barbados that I thought podiatry was a wonderful branch of medicine. And that I should go and do that. Then I grew up and faced reality…
Meet Simone McConnie.
Who are you?
My name is Simone McConnie – Known by my close friends as “Si” or “Monie”.
What got you into the diabetic foot?
I overheard a speech by our then Prime Minister stating that we needed podiatrists, I listened to many general surgeons and doctors in their speeches mention the fact that we had many amputations and diabetic foot issues because we had no podiatrists. Given there was at the time so many general practitioners I thought podiatry was a wonderful branch of medicine. Then I grew up and faced reality…☺
Why do you like working with the diabetic foot, most people don’t like feet?
It is very rewarding. It is awesome to be a part of getting to teach, mould and guide a patient who is willing to change but also to see a foot that may have been slated for amputation, heal and allow the person to get back to their full life. Our feet are important and should NEVER be taken for granted. Amputations are always an option but it does not have to be the first.
Who was your first inspiration in the diabetic foot world?
I did a few months at King’s College Hospital in London after qualifying as a podiatrist. I worked under Aletha Foster and Mike Edmonds back in 1994 at the, then, first diabetic foot unit in London. It was inspiring, and I remember their humble beginnings and when I visit the facility at King's now it’s a truly multidisciplinary team environment. I wish it were that easy to have the same in the Caribbean region.
I chose Podiatry in general as a profession because there was a dearth of Podiatrists in Barbados and the region. We had—still have—high amputation rates, and people suffering from diabetic foot disease. I was one of the first fully trained and registerable Podiatrist in Barbados. At the time I did not see it as a pioneering profession but that is what it has turned out to be.
How do you see your role as National Representative/ Regional Chair?
Oh my, this is a really important role. As Regional Chair/National Representative it is essential to stimulate, motivate and initiate talks on limb salvage with regional practitioners, health ministries and governments that are interested, and to hopefully agitate the ones that are not understanding the urgency of the matter of saving limbs and lives. In this role, it is so important to build relationships and communications between those that are genuinely interested in the D-Foot mission which has evolved out of the needs in our countries. It takes creativity, tenacity and persistence but I have been at it for over 20 years, and I believe we will get there. Somethings just take time.
What challenges do you face in your daily professional life?
Lack of availability of resources and the ability to have easy access to a multidisciplinary team.
What one thing could have changed your professional life dramatically?
Staying in the UK after qualifying instead of returning to Barbados.
What are some of the things you think D-Foot should do?
D-Foot should become the one-stop-shop for the diabetic foot in the world, encouraging protocols, standards of practice as it relates to the diabetic foot; engaging and uniting the pharmaceutical industries that have products related to the diabetic foot and limb salvage to promote the work of D-Foot. We should also work towards establishing a World Diabetic foot day in a separate month to November (World diabetes day is the 14th of November) this will help to bring awareness to the diabetic foot and its many challenges.
Which person do you admire the most and why?
Anyone who stands for the truth shows integrity and genuinely loves others in all that they say and do. I believe that this is the foundation of strength and peace.
What did you want to become when you were a child?
A teacher because my mum was a teacher and her job really seemed cool.
What do you see when you look into the future?
There are many things, but as it relates to diabetes and the diabetic foot, there will be multidisciplinary teams comprising of not just the medical fraternities, but pharmaceutical companies, private companies, governments, and health ministries, working together, reducing amputations and improving the lives of people living with diabetes. For regions like the Caribbean, I can see in the future, a Diabetic foot aeroplane (D-Foot Air) fully outfitted with all the needs for the multidisciplinary team, inclusive of mobile units that drive off the plane and provide foot service to the difficult to reach areas on the islands.
Where is your happy place?
In my heart first, I am a happy person, I love to laugh and I love to have fun. Life of the party. The energizer bunny I am usually called by my friends. I find the most peace in a natural space with no one around, a mountain top, lake or oceanfront, just nature and the fresh breeze on your face.
What's your guilty pleasure?
Dark Chocolate and red wine.
What do you hold most dear?
My family and friends that over the years have become an extension of my family, without them I will be a nut case.
If you had all the money in the world where would you go?
There are many places but New Zealand for 6 weeks, Australia for 6 weeks, and Africa for 6 weeks with my family.
If you could travel back into time, where would you go?
Not so much where I would go, but I would like to hold on to the “back in time” respect for others, and loyalty that governments had for themselves, the general public and standards and values for mankind they portrayed that was something to look up to.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I am thankful to date for my family and the work I have done in the diabetic foot. The 10 k’s I have run and my first Barbados Adventure Race 2019, which has elements of “spartan”.
What's the most important lesson that life's taught you?
Patience and the appreciation for others in all their flaws and joys. As a Christian, we are urged to not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth, and love brings patience.
What advise would you give to anyone interested in foot care?
It is the most rewarding job there is, why don’t you just give it a try.
What is one of the most difficult things you have done?
Learning patience and sending my daughter off to boarding school.
What are the most interesting things you have done this year unrelated to your job?
Take part in the Barbados Adventure Race, Climb Soufriere volcano in St Vincent,
Any last words?
Diabetes and its complications are not burdens, they are challenges. The day we admit it as a challenge we will win the battle. I can do all things through Christ that strengthens me and through this daily dose, I have survived 26 years of resistance to a wonderful profession Podiatric Medicine. Live, Love and Laugh. Thank you for taking the time to read all about me.
Simone McConnie is Managing Podiatrist at the Comfeet Foot Clinic in Barbados, Founder of the Save Our Soles Charitable Trust, National Representative and Regional Chair North America and the Caribbean of D-Foot International.