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VA Podiatry a good gig?

HalluxSlicer

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Hey all,

I am an incoming 1st year podiatry student and currently applying for scholarships. The Veterans Health Administration (VA) are giving out 4 year scholarships and am currently applying to it. Per the agreement, accepting 4 year full ride scholarship will require you to work for the VA Hospital for 6 years (1 year of scholarship = 1.5 years service) after residency. I looked at the current VA salary table and it shows that the starting salary for fully pledged, new residency grad podiatrist will be at 107K.

Do you think it's worth it to take this deal or just do the loans and grind trying to payback while earning higher salary in the private sector? (Of note, my school's tuition is 46k per year (184K for 4 years). Taking federal loan per year (45K) and current interest rate is 6.8%.

How is the work climate working in the VA as a podiatrist? Any benefits? Cons?

Thanks!
 
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GreenHousePub

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Anything that is going to pay your loans off is a good thing. Take any opportunity. I did the military. I'm guessing it's the HPSP program - I didn't know they were taking podiatrists for it.

VA won't be bad and after all, it's only 6 years. Most of your classmates are going to end up in terrible private practice jobs making just as much after residency.

You might be able to accrue cases as well to get board certified.
 
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Dochopeful13

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Anything that is going to pay your loans off is a good thing. Take any opportunity. I did the military. I'm guessing it's the HPSP program - I didn't know they were taking podiatrists for it.

VA won't be bad and after all, it's only 6 years. Most of your classmates are going to end up in terrible private practice jobs making just as much after residency.

You might be able to accrue cases as well to get board certified.
I thought the VA pays close to 200 k now.
 
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HalluxSlicer

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Anything that is going to pay your loans off is a good thing. Take any opportunity. I did the military. I'm guessing it's the HPSP program - I didn't know they were taking podiatrists for it.

VA won't be bad and after all, it's only 6 years. Most of your classmates are going to end up in terrible private practice jobs making just as much after residency.

You might be able to accrue cases as well to get board certified.

On that note about the military, would you recommend for me to look into military podiatry as well? I'm applying for the 3 year USAF HPSP for Podiatry (limited awarding compared to HPSP MD/DO) and the obligation is 3 years active duty after residency. I've always wanted to serve in the USAF as a medical officer so this maybe a good gig for me but I'm wondering how different military podiatry is; no special pay even though you are residency trained physician, not part of medical group, etc.
 
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DYK343

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107k is not a lot of money. I know the VA has pretty cushy hours. Most I rotated at DPMs were done at 2PM.
What is the vacation schedule? Insurance? CME? 401k match? Licensing fees? Incentives? Do you make more money as you work there longer? These are factors that increase your salary.

Assuming you have a 300k loan (for ease of math). Reimbursement over 6 years (without interest for ease of math)is 50k a year.

So you're making 157k a year + benefits. Its not great and youre locked in for 6 years.

It's probably better than being an associate.
 
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DYK343

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New grads may be looking at close to 150k to start with. The cap is now around $240k.
Pretty sweet gig I would say.
How long does it take to get to the cap?
I think the VA has something where you make X% of your salary for life if you work X amount of years, correct?
If its graduated quickly up to 240k I think its a good deal.
 
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heybrother

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I don't mean this unkindly, but what you will ultimately find is VA patients are a world into themselves. Its great someone is caring for them. You'll see this on rotations. In general, unfortunately... or something, a person's insurance can tell you a lot about them. Medicaid people unfortunately are often non-compliant and nuts. VA people cover a spectrum from great people who served to completely non-functional Mountain Dew chugging, cigarette smoking crazies running to the grave. My practice only does private insurance and Medicare and its honestly so easy most of the time because the people want to get better. That said - and its noted above - VA starting pay now crushes most private practice associate pay due a substantial salary increase and the fact that the benefits were always grossly superior.
 
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DexterMorganSK

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Hey all,

I am an incoming 1st year podiatry student and currently applying for scholarships. The Veterans Health Administration (VA) are giving out 4 year scholarships and am currently applying to it. Per the agreement, accepting 4 year full ride scholarship will require you to work for the VA Hospital for 6 years (1 year of scholarship = 1.5 years service) after residency. I looked at the current VA salary table and it shows that the starting salary for fully pledged, new residency grad podiatrist will be at 107K.

Do you think it's worth it to take this deal or just do the loans and grind trying to payback while earning higher salary in the private sector? (Of note, my school's tuition is 46k per year (184K for 4 years). Taking federal loan per year (45K) and current interest rate is 6.8%.

How is the work climate working in the VA as a podiatrist? Any benefits? Cons?

Thanks!

I thought the VA scholarships were for the MD/DO students?
 
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GreenHousePub

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I asked the point of contact, to which he said Podiatry is part of their accession area this year

Snap that up as fast as possible. I guarantee someone else will.

Benefits are that you don't need malpractice insurance, 401k in form of Thrift Savings Plan, good experience after residency, and most likely you could keep your job part-time if you wanted when it's done. They offer health insurance buy-ins.

It's easy to say now "well I could pay my loans back in 5 years if I pay 50k a year." Try saying that when you have a family, kids, mortgage payment, malpractice insurance, and you're not sure that bonus is coming this year.

Easier to say "I have no loans" and I'm being (slightly) underpaid for a few years.
 
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msion

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How long does it take to get to the cap?
I think the VA has something where you make X% of your salary for life if you work X amount of years, correct?
If its graduated quickly up to 240k I think its a good deal.

Lots of factors determine the salary. The federal government has a pretty standard process, years of training, experience, board certifications, publications, and even volunteering stuff all contribute to the final figure.
The salary grows the fastest for the first few years from what I've heard.
From my experience with the process, $150k is a pretty consistent amount for new grads. If you have few years of experience then maybe looking at close to 200k.
Some VAs have no call obligations and are exclusively outpatient. They may have you see some inpatients but they were all under general surgery service.
Not all VAs are created equal. You may be doing bilateral profore dressings on a wheelchair-bound patient whom also got Norwegian scabies, or doing fracture surgeries and seeing lots of sports medicine. Same goes for the support staff: either nurses with BMI > 50 that are glued to their chairs, or excessive help from 3rd year students to chief residents.
It's actually becoming more and more competitive, and the whole package dwarfs those of the private practice for sure.
 
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DYK343

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Snap that up as fast as possible. I guarantee someone else will.

Benefits are that you don't need malpractice insurance, 401k in form of Thrift Savings Plan, good experience after residency, and most likely you could keep your job part-time if you wanted when it's done. They offer health insurance buy-ins.

It's easy to say now "well I could pay my loans back in 5 years if I pay 50k a year." Try saying that when you have a family, kids, mortgage payment, malpractice insurance, and you're not sure that bonus is coming this year.

Easier to say "I have no loans" and I'm being (slightly) underpaid for a few years.

Not everyone is going to get a MSG/Hospital job. But I make substantially more at my MSG group than the above contract w full benefits. 50k a year payment is easy and I'm not locked in for 6 years.
 
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Apolo106

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Hey all,

I am an incoming 1st year podiatry student and currently applying for scholarships. The Veterans Health Administration (VA) are giving out 4 year scholarships and am currently applying to it. Per the agreement, accepting 4 year full ride scholarship will require you to work for the VA Hospital for 6 years (1 year of scholarship = 1.5 years service) after residency. I looked at the current VA salary table and it shows that the starting salary for fully pledged, new residency grad podiatrist will be at 107K.

Do you think it's worth it to take this deal or just do the loans and grind trying to payback while earning higher salary in the private sector? (Of note, my school's tuition is 46k per year (184K for 4 years). Taking federal loan per year (45K) and current interest rate is 6.8%.

How is the work climate working in the VA as a podiatrist? Any benefits? Cons?

Thanks!

First of all, congrats on choosing podiatry as a career. Two of my classmates chose military scholarship route and got a nice stipend every month while in school. I have worked with a few VA residents and even externed at a few VA places at east and west coast. Not having student loans is a huge plus (200-300k at 6.8% is no joke unless you refinance with a private loan company at a lower rate). You can put that money toward buying assets like a house or invest for retirement. You don't see a lot of people leaving VA jobs to go into the private sector. If I recalled from a lecture, about 60% of all podiatry residents are trained at a VA and they were the first to implement an electronic EMR in 1996. You can always reach out to a few DPM who work at a VA near you and ask them what they like enjoy most about being there. 107K is more like 120-130K if you add cost of malpractice, health insurance, paid vacation/holiday, life/accident insurance, DEA, state license, paid CME, and loan forgiveness. Work hard and stay positive. Good luck with the scholarship, hope you get it.

 
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Utvolsdpm

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The base and longevity pay is 100k. That is the number you are seeing. Your final salary will include market pay which should put you at 150k+ along with benefits for a new grad. Benefits to factor in are 1 paid day off and 0.5 sick day every two weeks as well as federal holidays off, great health insurance, opportunity for good life insurance, a “tenure” of sorts after 2 years, and work hours 8-430, it’s a pretty sweet gig.
 
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CutsWithFury

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If I had a choice between a VA gig or being a podiatry associate I would choose VA gig over and over and over. Great hours. Great holiday schedule. Low stress. Great benefits. Base salary is superior to podiatry associates.

People on here will say you "could" make more in private practice and they would not be wrong. You SHOULD make more in private practice in ANY specialty compared to physicians in those respective specialties who are employed by the VA hospital system.

The problem is podiatry is the exception to the rule. Most podiatry associates join groups where there is very little support or resources to bring them on in the first place. They get paid very little and are told to build their own practice from scratch which is incredibly challenging. The established referral bases for those groups are already referring to the other DPMs in the group. And guess what? They are not giving those new patients to the new associate. Sorry sucker.

Some podiatry groups have no pathway for partnership. You are just forever an associate signing a new contract every 1-2 years.

We can go on and on about the scenarios out there for private practice podiatry.

VA podiatry > private practice podiatry

There was podiatry VA gig in San Diego I recently saw. The VA gigs can be in favorable locations
 
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heybrother

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Here's some other variations. Other possibilities will exist:

(1) Your patient population is probably going to be predominantly male. Its not 100%. But its skewed at a lot of places. You probably won't be seeing any children/young adolescents. Younger people are fun to take care of. Teenagers are often ungrateful brats, but I still like them.

(2) There's a lot of nailcare everywhere I've been. Not that other places don't also have this. But there's a lot.

(3) Some of the referrals ie. vascular surgery, may not be as aggressive or helpful as the referrals you receive at big hospital systems. Hate to paint too broadly - hope I'm wrong. I have an interventional cardiology group that is HELPFUL. Like came to us and said - we want to help you with PVD. They coordinate care with vascular surgery. They see people same day and book things pronto. In general, my vascular surgeon in residency was helpful albeit overworked. He also sometimes liked to say - try it, I'll bail you out if it fails.

Least favorite residency experience - our vascular team says the patient needs an intervention. The patient says - it has to be done at my VA. They get transferred with critical limb ischemia and tissue loss and pop back up in your podiatry clinic (what!?) a week later with a rotting, black gangrenous toe covered in bacitracin (what) telling you vascular didn't want to do anything and you should just amputate the toe and see what happens even though he's losing tissue elsewhere on the foot. Maybe overworked. Kind of feel like it could be a VA thing.

(4) Your colleagues may be sketchy as hell. My personal experience is that people who work at VA hospitals are jokingly either the best or the worst. Worst podiatrist I ever met was at a VA. Course next few worst after him were not. Saw a guy tell a kid who I'm pretty sure had a lisfranc dislocation he just needed custom orthotics - wasn't at a VA though.

(5) Its already been said above - your staff and assistants may be crazy lazy. At some point in your career if you are surgically busy and efficient as a surgeon it is possible you could have a surgery day where you book 5-8 surgeries in a day. I had an attending in residency who had 7 surgeries booked every week on his surgery day. Every hospital is different, but usually the joke about VAs is the rooms don't turn over. You'd be better off mopping the floors yourself. 3-4 cases is probably a day. I was at a VA hospital once with this brand new attending who also graduated from the program. He literally set the room up himself ie. tables and everything because it was a 4:30 add on pus case and he wanted it done.

(6) There may be a larger number of chronic disaster, uncontrolled diabetic, lifetime smokers who are just coming in to have ...epifix fraudulently smeared on their foot once a week for the rest of their life. Right now, in private practice - the number of people who I see where I'm like... this is hopeless just aren't that many. There may be a higher ratio of that compared to private practice.

(7) There's something to be said for .. "Capitalism". Obviously fee for service can lead to insane and ridiculous things ie. the more we do the more we are paid, but there can also be good things about it. We're motivated to offer more services. Hopefully we are cognizant of whether the things we are doing are also in the patient's interest. The tricky thing - and I'll touch on this more later - when you get show up, see 15-20 people, can't be sued, take your $150K and go home everywhere - that can produce someone who really truly is just there for the paycheck. Who isn't motivated. Who doesn't discuss possibilities. Someone who just sees the world only through the spectrum of what they know. They have a hammer and their patients feet are the nail.

(8) Bureaucracy. x 1000. Inability to change things. All sorts of weird problems. VAs have a tendency to shut down their operating rooms for revisions that are supposed to take a month and end up taking several years. There's a VA near me where the podiatrists drive 1.5 hours on their surgery day because that's the closest operating room.

(9) Female? Rampant sexual harassment. The number of times I heard an old man tell a young woman - can I just look at you while cut my nails or whatever. A plural number of times, per day.

(10) In hospital call responsibility is often nail consults. Not sure how others handle that, but in residency we drew a line and said hell no. That doesn't seem to happen at VAs.

That said. If the VA in my town offered me a job - I'd be there. I'd also be in the mountains every other weekend. Not busy? Income stays the same. Fluctuations and wild rides in the health insurance market? I've looked up VA insurance - its amazing. Health insurance is expensive - expect the cost of insurance for your family to be $12000-20000 if you had to pay out of pocket and the bullcrap thing is $$$s spent doesn't in any way guarantee quality since larger organizations have economies of scale. Female? Obviously harassment sucks, but I'm pretty sure you'll have an easier time taking time off for pregnancy and those early important months at a VA then you ever will for your private practice schmuck. The pay has gone up considerably - all federal employee salaries are public record - a few years ago before the recent law it seemed to me most people topped at like $150ish- something like that at 15-20 years. You start there now. You get a pension. Classic federal pensions for the last ...20 have been something like - for each year you serve earn 1% of your "top pay" where top pay is the average of your best 3 years. And you get a 401k through thrift savings and you get a match. And since the pay went up the match went up also. Vacation, time off, sick time, etc. You can't match those perks in PP. Potentially no call responsibility. No malpractice. Much lower expectations in documentation...
 
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Scrantonicity

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I'm pretty sure you don't have to go through the whole licensing process for the state that the VA is in. As long as you have a valid license for ANY state, you can go work at any VA. Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but if true it does take another big hassle out of the equation (assuming you already will have a full license for the state you do your residency in).

I just remember a while back I was applying to a VA in Arizona, and the job offer stated you just had to have a license in ANY of the 50 states.
 
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Utvolsdpm

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I'm pretty sure you don't have to go through the whole licensing process for the state that the VA is in. As long as you have a valid license for ANY state, you can go work at any VA. Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but if true it does take another big hassle out of the equation (assuming you already will have a full license for the state you do your residency in).

I just remember a while back I was applying to a VA in Arizona, and the job offer stated you just had to have a license in ANY of the 50 states.
That is correct. Also they accept ABPM or ABFAS for becoming board certified.
 
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GreenHousePub

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I just remember a while back I was applying to a VA in Arizona

I hope it was the one in Tucson, and not the one in Phoenix. The one in Phoenix was an absolute nightmare (at least it was 10 years ago when i was a student).

6 years there would be an absolute prison sentence.
 
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dingdong28

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I thought the VA scholarships were for the MD/DO students?
OP, do you mind pointing out where podiatrist qualify for the scholarship you're talking about? I was curious but couldn't find info on it.

I had the same questions too when I started lurking this thread. This is what I could find:


 
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GreenHousePub

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I had the same questions too when I started lurking this thread. This is what I could find:

Yeah I was surprised to hear it as well, that would mean they were hurting for podiatrists. Usually the VA jobs are filled by nepotism even though they are technically listed on USAjobs.
 
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Scrantonicity

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I hope it was the one in Tucson, and not the one in Phoenix. The one in Phoenix was an absolute nightmare (at least it was 10 years ago when i was a student).

6 years there would be an absolute prison sentence.

Hm, I believe it was Phoenix--I never heard anything back, so maybe I dodged a bullet on that one. I figured they gave the position to one of their residents, and had only posted the offer to go through the motions...
 
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Is this what you guys are talking about? Cause it only speaks of MD/DO.
 
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Utvolsdpm

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So if anyone is curious there is something called EDRP at the VA. I applied for it after I was in the VA. Got approved for 5 years. At the time it was 24k/yr for your loans. Basically you serve one year and the VA will pay you back what you paid into your student loans (up to the 24k) at the end of the service year. There is no commitment, you can leave at any time but if you don’t serve the full year I don’t think you’ll get reimbursed.

With the mission act, I think the amount available for edrp doubled (up to 48k) but getting approved is on a case by case basis.
 
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dingdong28

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So I emailed them and we don't qualify for the HPSP VA. MD/DO only...
Damn it. I had a feeling but was hoping that wasn't the case. It was pretty annoying finding a lot of different information.

I wonder if it's a year-by-year basis because different programs are available for HPSP scholarships each year. For example, I would have never imagined a medical technologist (MT) HPSP scholarship being offered by the VA, but there's an open application for it this year. I believe this is the first time it's been offered before. Last year, only nursing programs and PA programs were open for the VA HPSP; there are multiple programs on the list this year. You can almost guarantee there will be always be nursing, PA and physician HPSP scholarships available each year. I would throw MT in there, but it's too early to tell if this will continue in the future, although there is an ongoing MLT/MT shortage that sure as heck isn't going to get better in the foreseeable future (a huge reason why I haven't pulled the trigger on any professional schools yet).
 
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owl1999

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So I saw this post and started to sign up, after emailing AND calling the VA making sure DPM students are considered (he told me they did, it was the first thing I asked), but after finishing the app I come to find out they actually aren't taking any podiatrists for HPSP. I dunno if he just didn't read my first email or if they are confused that DPM is different from MD/DO but that was disappointing.

EDRP looks like the best VA related option we have right now.
 
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PTPuser

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1589325971852.png
This was the email response.

Like, it makes me question this whole thing when the person doesn't know that there's no podiatry residency for MD/DO...

And it triggered my memories of other encounters with recruiters and I feel like they don't really know how to answer any of my questions...
 
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View attachment 306065
This was the email response.

Like, it makes me question this whole thing when the person doesn't know that there's no podiatry residency for MD/DO...

And it triggered my memories of other encounters with recruiters and I feel like they don't really know how to answer any of my questions...

lol this is like that air force site all over again...where you needed an MD/DO degree with a Podiatry residency to work for them.

These ppl don't know wtf they are talking about! Need to update their system/site
 
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DexterMorganSK

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View attachment 306065
This was the email response.

Like, it makes me question this whole thing when the person doesn't know that there's no podiatry residency for MD/DO...

And it triggered my memories of other encounters with recruiters and I feel like they don't really know how to answer any of my questions...

On another note, if you should probably forward that email to someone within the APMA and ask them to reach out to the VA.
It's fine if Pod students don't qualify for this scholarship but the VA should know the difference between a DPM vs DO/MD education process.
 
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air bud

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I hope it was the one in Tucson, and not the one in Phoenix. The one in Phoenix was an absolute nightmare (at least it was 10 years ago when i was a student).

6 years there would be an absolute prison sentence.
Frykberg is gone so can't be that bad anymore...
 
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GreenHousePub

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Frykberg is gone so can't be that bad anymore...

I remember their wound care day. 150 patients in the waiting room for the afternoon, most of them frustrated and rude. Product reps just circling the clinic like vultures, dermagraft (or was it apligraft) getting slapped on like gauze.
 
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