This podiatrist helps keep New Orleans on its toes.
What does a podiatrist do, and when should you see one? Dr. Erin Mathews aims to answer these questions for New Orleans residents. “We diagnose and treat all conditions of the foot and ankle,” she explains. “It can be both medical and surgical care.” She works with patients to treat and prevent a variety of issues — from sports injuries and trauma to foot deformities and fall prevention. “I am actually in general practice,” she says. “I like to do everything. It keeps things diverse.”
Originally from Lake Charles, Louisiana, Dr. Mathews was an athlete and avid science student during high school. “I had a teacher who created a health careers club, and introduced us to different medical professions,” she remembers. “Growing up, I did not know what a podiatrist was. I said, ‘I’m going to go away, get all the training I can, and bring that back to Louisiana.’”
She majored in zoology at Louisiana State University and earned her medical degree at the Dr. William M. Scholl College of Podiatric Medicine in Chicago. “It was a wonderful four years, but it was quite cold!” she says. Next, she completed her residency in podiatry at Yale-New Haven Hospital, where she gained experience in surgery of the foot and ankle, as well as general surgery.
“Podiatrists do other rotations, just like M.D. doctors,” she says. “We do learn about the entire body; we just focus on the foot and ankle.”
After her residency, Dr. Mathews returned to Louisiana, settling in New Orleans and working in private practice. Earlier this year, she joined LSU Healthcare Network. Like many fields of medicine, podiatry requires a team approach, and, at LSU’s St. Charles Avenue clinic, Dr. Mathews works with primary care physicians and specialists in a host of other fields to provide patients with comprehensive care. “We communicate, and we really help formulate treatment plans with other physicians,” she says. She also collaborates with physical therapists who help rehabilitate patients after injury or surgery.
Dr. Mathews often works with patients who have diabetes, which can impact the health of the feet and hands when proper preventive measures are not taken. “Diabetes affects the nerves and blood flow of the eyes and kidneys, and also of the hands and feet,” she says. Lower-extremity nerve damage can lead to a loss of feeling known as neuropathy, which can overshadow pain sensations in the extremities. “Patients lose that protective mechanism if they step on something or get a blister,” she explains.
“And if they do develop a wound, they may not be able to heal it [efficiently]. If you’re diabetic, you should see a podiatrist once a year, minimum.”
Having spent time in New Orleans between college and medical school, Dr. Mathews is glad to be back. “I can appreciate, now, that I went away, but the people of Louisiana and New Orleans — there’s just not a more welcoming group,” she says. Knowing how many of the city’s attractions require walking, she also understands the unique frustration faced by podiatric patients who have pain or difficulty being on their feet. Her main goal is to keep her patients active and enjoying life every day. “New Orleans is a wonderful place to explore and experience,” she says. “A lot of people think foot pain is normal, and it’s not. There are options, and you don’t want to limit yourself.”
Erin Mathews, D.P.M.
LSU Healthcare Network
3700 St. Charles Ave., 3rd Floor
MEDICAL SCHOOL: Dr. William M. Scholl College of Podiatric Medicine at Rosalind Franklin University
RESIDENCY: Yale-New Haven Podiatric Medicine and Surgery Program, Podiatry
BOARD CERTIFICATIONS: Podiatry