An interview with Dr. Wodka from the Times Herald-Record, January 14, 2004.

“If the shoe fits, please wear it.”

Dr. Michael L. Wodka, a Middletown podiatrist for 21 years, says the field is misunderstood, and that’s why he’s so vocal in promoting his specialty via the New York Podiatric Medical Association and other venues.

How did you choose your field?
A friend of mine had a wart in college. We were both in premed, and I was considering oral surgery. But my friend’s wart led us to a podiatrist, who enlightened us about the specialty of podiatry. After seeing what he did, and could do, I went to the New York City College of Podiatric Medicine in Manhattan.

Feet have a doctor of their own, and that’s a podiatrist. A podiatrist specializes in the medical and surgical treatment of the human foot.

Our feet are plagued by a variety of problems, ranging from warts, bunions, fungus toenails, fractures and sports injuries to more chronic conditions such as painful ingrown toenails, heel spurs, gait abnormalities, diabetic ulcers and much more.

You have a radio show. How did your affiliation with the radio station evolve?
The idea was conceived after being a guest on John Moultrie’s show on AM 1110 WTBQ, an ABC affiliate.
There was definitely a need in this area for a bridge between health-care professionals and the public. Now that the two hospitals (Horton and Arden Hill) have merged into Orange Regional Medical Center, and with its sponsorship, there are some 450 doctors and the availability of sophisticated equipment that people need to know that.

“Health Matters” has been on the air now for just about a year. It airs between 1 and 2 p.m. Thursdays. Since November 2002, we have tackled a range of topics, including post-traumatic stress syndrome following 9/11, bioterrorism, nutrition, psychology, poisonous animal bites, menopause, colon cancer, allergies, and laughter therapy.

I am learning a lot every week and am grateful to be able to introduce medical professionals as approachable, caring human beings in a casual and often humorous manner. Listeners are invited to call in during broadcast.

To give you an idea of what goes on behind the scenes, one show’s topic was urology. During a break, I commented that all of my patients would likely be canceling that afternoon because of the snowstorm. My guest responded that all of his patients would show. After all, urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction are quality-of-life issues that will not be daunted by a little weather.

What do you do when you’re not working?
It seems as if there’s so little time for anything else with a full-time practice.

My family is very important. My son attends the University of Pennsylvania and was an exchange student in London for six months. My daughter attends Albany State. My wife, Marcia, is also very civic-minded. She is a past president of the Goshen school board, and works full-time in the aerospace industry.

In my spare time, I dabble in politics. I’m a parliamentarian, which means I study the rules of meetings. Basically, I am called upon to oversee a specific meeting to ensure that it is conducted in a fair and orderly fashion in accordance with “Robert’s Rules of Parliamentary Procedure.”

Do you have any pets?
Our french poodle, Maddy, has filled a void now that the kids are away at school. My wife will come home from a tough day, and it’s Maddy who comforts her first.

I suffer from allergies. Poodles are a better breed for me because they have fur and not hair, which sheds. A patient told me of a poodle whose owner was going to a nursing home; her relative didn’t want the dog, so it was offered to me on a trial. She is always with me, even in the office. My patients love her and so do we.

You are involved in Shoes for the Needy. What is the drive?
It’s not only philanthropic work, but a way to spread the word about my profession and our concerns about the poor health of the less fortunate men, women, and children of the Hudson Valley.
I brought the idea to this area four years ago. I saw the need through my own practice. I would tell a patient that he should get a good shoe and, I could tell by his face that he could not afford one.
This is the group that we target – the working poor, the elderly. We ask people to donate new or gently worn shoes that are just collecting dust in their closets. The kickoff is Saturday. This year, the Shoes for the Needy drive has grown and is being sponsored by Orange Regional Medical Center. People can bring their donations to Groo’s Shoes in Middletown. In exchange, each family will receive a $10 gift certificate. There will be entertainment, food, T-shirts and more. Shoes will be accepted through the end of March at which time they’ll be distributed to the needy through various public-assistance agencies. We expect to handle about 18,000 pairs of shoes – I already have more than 100 in my waiting room.

We used to have people drop off shoes at eight or nine participating podiatrists’ offices. This became a bit of a logistical problem, storing and delivering the donations. That’s why we now ask people to use Groo’s Shoes as the drop-off point.

This has been a very rewarding experience for me. I am grateful to the overwhelming community participation and to the many volunteers who make the Shoes for the Needy drive so successful.