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19.08.2020 | The team

School of Podology students to benefit from the experience of Thomas Müller

Thomas Müller, a specialist in diabetic podiatry and Therapeutic Patient Education (TPE), has dedicated himself to the training of future podiatrists. The Geneva School of Podology has asked him to teach the therapeutic education course to second and third year students for the 2020-21 academic year, starting when the students return to class after the summer break.


In this interview, discover what motivated Thomas Müller to get involved in teaching as well as his upcoming collaboration with the ASSAL Center:


Which subjects will you be teaching at the Geneva School of Podology?


As I was trained by Professor Jean-Philippe Assal, endocrinologist, pedagogue, international figure of therapeutic patient education, the fact that the Dean of the Geneva School of Podology asked me to teach course modules on "therapeutic patient education" to the second and third year students happened quite naturally.

I will also be in charge of supervising the medical care practices at the Geneva University Hospital (HUG) one day a week. With more than twenty years of experience and a diploma in Therapeutic Patient Education, I will be able to transmit my passion to future professionals and give them the tools to become effective chiropodists.  


Why is Therapeutic Patient Education important and why should every podiatry student have access to quality education in this field?


Therapeutic patient education is a fundamental approach to improving the overall health of the diabetic patient. It not only aims to make the patients as autonomous as possible in the treatment of the disease, but to also allow them to incorporate the latter into their future projects.  

What can I do to live optimally with my chronic disease? How can I adapt my treatment to the circumstances of daily life, and successfully adapt my diet and exercise routine? In short, transform the improved management of my diabetes into a turning point for a healthier life. At the end of the day, the daily reality of a diabetic who manages the disease well, comes down to a balanced lifestyle which everyone should sign up for. Whether it is from the point of view of a balanced diet, daily physical activity, personal hygiene, but also, when it comes to feet, the choice of appropriate footwear... 

A consultant podiatrist must be able to educate patients so that they can live better with their disease, incorporating the strategies they learn into their daily life, and this, thanks to  the educational sessions which take place during regular consultations at the surgery. They will be taught effective foot-care, how to assess the severity of a wound, when to be alert, but also how to choose a pair of shoes and make adapted choices according to their level of physical activity. 


And what about you, did you take a course on therapeutic patient education during your podiatry studies? How did you come to specialize in this field?


When I was a student at the Geneva School of Podology (1995-1998), a module dedicated to the Therapeutic Education of the Patient didn’t exist as such. However, we did have a weekly two-hour psychology course. We addressed many subjects, including the stages of child development for instance...

During this course we received an overview of the work of Geneva psychologist Anne Lacroix and Prof. Jean-Philippe Assal (a diabetologist and precursor of therapeutic patient education in Europe) on the grieving process of patients in relation to chronic illness. I was awe-struck, as much by the focus on the human aspect as by the educational topics that gave the podiatrist a lot of food for thought: working within the care network, helping patients who, by treating themselves better, preventing wounds, greatly improve their quality of life and by taking control of the management of their disease, they are no longer passive victims of it.    


What are the motivations that led you to turn to teaching, in parallel with your practice in your doctor’s practice and at the ASSAL Center?

I have always wanted to teach, especially since my internship in the Diabetology Unit of the Geneva University Hospitals. Working under the benevolent wing of Dr Bettina Peter-Riesch with the energetic input of Prof. Jean-Philippe Assal, is to enter a kind of club of dynamic, passionate caregivers whose common goal is better patient care. You can’t help but get involved in the project to make the patient autonomous through a personalized and optimal therapeutic education. Hence the idea that you must "pass on the torch"!

What better place to teach than a professional school!


You have created a Diabetes Foot Prevention and Education Consultation within the ASSAL Center. What synergies did you imagine between the Center's specialized physicians and your students?

This consultation will have a new approach, as of the beginning of the school year, with a focus on the early detection of diabetic foot complications. The goal is for the ASSAL Center to become a center of reference for physicians and caregivers who wish to optimize the care of their patients through early podiatric diagnosis and a proposal for follow-up care and therapeutic education.

The educational focus for students is of course to be able to observe surgical procedures. But above all to grasp that the quality of surgery is dependent first of all on an accurate diagnosis by medical staff, then a personalized follow-up and an increased sensitivity to the rehabilitation process: a bad cast can reduce the effectiveness of a successful operation for example, bad advice on footwear can lead to injuries, a hasty post-operative recovery can impair bone-healing. Hence the importance of education!


Why do you think it is important for podiatry students to discover other professional specialisms and techniques that are not directly related to their future practice (making casts, foot surgery, etc.)?

I am convinced that a good practitioner is someone who not only has an in-depth knowledge of his or her profession, but who also knows about other practices related to his or her professional field. With this experience he will know how to better direct his patient towards the right practitioner when in doubt.

My experience as a podiatrist has often led me to refer a patient to an osteopath, a doctor, to suggest that he or she go for a complementary examination: I prefer to have a doubt and investigate rather than keep my head down and carry on.

Moreover, the highly skilled medical team at the ASSAL Center's is a motivation booster for students! As was the case for me during my studies, a mentor, someone inspiring who guides others down their path with his or her motivation and professionalism and who likes to pass on the torch, is a vital way to guarantee a high quality professional future.


The entire ASSAL Centre team is looking forward to welcoming students from the School of Podology to help them improve their understanding of foot and ankle pathologies and, who knows, to spark new interests among our specialized physicians.

We congratulate Thomas Müller on this new turning point in his career and are delighted to be able to accompany him in his endeavours.

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