Podiatry clinic helps flood-affected put best foot forward

Published 11 July 2022
Podiatry clinic for flood affected

Southern Cross University’s Gold Coast podiatry students are being praised for using their skills to help the NSW Northern Rivers community get back on its feet.

Flood-affected residents with a variety of foot complaints recently benefited from a six-week pop-up podiatry clinic at Lismore’s SCU Health Clinic.

Foot problems can be exacerbated in the days and weeks following flood events. For example, walking through mud is unavoidable in the aftermath of a flood, but it can result in painful and infected toenails, made worse by stress and long hours on your feet cleaning up.

“The SCU Health Clinic opened a dedicated podiatry clinic at the University’s Lismore campus to help the community get timely, professional advice and treatment, at no cost to local residents,” said Podiatry Course Coordinator and registered podiatrist, Dr Alex Barwick.

The student podiatry clinic is normally located at the University’s Gold Coast campus.

“However, in watching these devastating floods impact our colleagues, friends and students, we wanted to do our bit at Southern Cross’s Lismore campus,” Dr Barwick said.

“The last thing anyone needs in these times is a foot problem.”

Student practitioners, under the supervision of Dr Barwick, helped people with fungal infections, painful toenails, cracked heels, corns and callus, even performing nail surgery to permanently resolve ingrown toenails.

“The interest in this podiatry clinic has exceeded our expectations, running mostly at full capacity,” said Dr Barwick.

“Our students have done a remarkable job helping people both directly and indirectly impacted by the floods with a range of foot conditions. We are all very happy to do our bit for this community.”

Alex Barwick and Kasandra Child at podiatry clinic for flood affected

Student practitioner Kasandra Child (right) with Podiatry Course Coordinator and registered podiatrist, Dr Alex Barwick.

Wyrallah resident Alicia Smith lost everything when the February 28 flood swept through the family home.

“My mum passed away in the last two years. I’d been staying there with my kids and my partner and my younger brother and uncle. We lost all our stuff, all my mum’s stuff as well. It’s been full-on,” said Alicia.

Alicia received strapping for foot pain and debridement (removal of dead, damaged, or infected tissue to improve the healing potential of the remaining healthy tissue) to treat a corn.

“You just sort of live with the pain and discomfort unless you come to a place like this. And with kids, you sort of ignore your own stuff to look after them plus sorting out your house that’s been flooded,” she said.

“It’s been great to come to the clinic and get that treated. Once that happened there was a lot of relief.”

Final year podiatry student Kasandra Child experienced firsthand the full force of the flood event and jumped at the opportunity to help.

“I was impacted by floods in Casino. It was traumatic,” said Kasandra, who travels to the Gold Coast campus to study podiatry.

“I’m a Rural Fire Service volunteer as well, and I was out helping with the clean-up in Casino, Woodburn and Coraki. I knew what conditions the residents were walking in, so as soon as I heard about the pop-up podiatry clinic, I was like ‘I want to be there to help them out’.

Kasandra treated ingrown toenails, skin issues and diabetes cases.  

“Our podiatry experience has grown after practising at the Lismore clinic. The patients are so different to the Gold Coast where we mostly treat bio-mechanical complaints,” she said.

“We had a few farmers here, too. They’re so busy, they just push through the pain and discomfort. I don’t know how they put up with it."

Kasandra said it was a valuable experience, professionally and personally.

“Professionally I got a lot out of it but also felt like I contributed a lot, too. We became like a shoulder to lean on. They shared how they’d been going, the issues they confronted along the way. I could help them because I’d been in the same situation. So we could bounce ideas off each other and be positive together trying to move through this traumatic event.”

Podiatry Clinic

The student podiatry clinic is based at the SCU Health Clinic Gold Coast campus.

  • Consultations with student practitioners are available year-round on Thursdays for a small fee
  • Phone 07 5589 3252 for bookings

For more information, visit the SCU Health Clinic website.

Media contact: Sharlene King, media office at Southern Cross University 0429 661 349 or scumedia@scu.edu.au