Dr. Desmond Bell is the Founder and President of “The Save A Leg, Save A Life” Foundation, with over 25 years of clinical experience in wound management and amputation prevention.
About Dr. Bell
Dr. Desmond Bell is the Founder and President of “The Save A Leg, Save A Life” Foundation, a multi-disciplinary non-profit organization dedicated to the reduction in lower extremity amputations and improving wound healing outcomes through education, evidence based methodology and community outreach. With over 25 years of clinical experience in wound management and amputation prevention, he also serves as Chief Medical Officer of Omeza, a medtech and consumer healthcare company, as well as an Executive Physician Coach with My MD Coaches and as a consultant with Arche Healthcare.
Dr. Bell was awarded the Frist Humanitarian Award by Specialty Hospital Jacksonville for 2009 and Memorial Hospital Jacksonville in 2018. He is a Board Certified Wound Specialist (CWS) having served on the Board of Directors of the American Board of Wound Management for 6 years and presently serving on the Board of the American Board of Wound Management Foundation. He is a Fellow of the Faculty of Podiatry, The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow.
Dr. Bell has published numerous articles primarily pertaining to wound management and lower extremity amputation prevention and has served as an Editorial Board Member for the publication “Today’s Wound Clinic” since its inception. He is nationally recognized speaker, with regular faculty roles at AMP, ASCENT and Modern Wound Care Management.
Tell Us About Yourself
I am an eternal optimist. I look for the good in every situation, no matter how bleak on the surface. Don’t believe me? Well, what if I said that I have been NY Mets fan since 1966? This guilty pleasure also speaks to my loyalty to whatever I believe in, and my belief that miracles not only happen, but also give us hope and the encouragement to never quit. I also love my family, friends, pets, my bass guitar, bad golf, good food, and long walks on the beach.
What was your path to wound care?
Wound Care found me. My first experience with a chronic wound was when I was about 17 and working as a hospital orderly. I got my first glimpse of a Stage lV sacral wound while assisting nursing with daily packing and dressing changes. I realized years later, as I began my first year of Residency at the Philadelphia VA, the need for wound care that extended well beyond daily wet to dry dressing changes, and the impact that healing a chronic wound can make in the life of a patient. I found personal satisfaction and enjoyment in working with chronic wound patients on several levels. Having a specialty that allows me to get to know my patients and to help them regain some semblance of their prior life provides a constant reminder of why I went into medicine.
What’s the most challenge part of your job?
The most challenging part of my job involves working around the myriad of obstacles, whether financial or logistical, to ensure my patients always receive access to the resources I prescribe or recommend. I think we can all appreciate our roles as patient advocates and the extra effort it sometimes takes to ensure our patients are receive the services or technologies they need to expedite healing or prevent recurrence of their wounds.
How are you helping to change the field of wound care?
I consider myself to be a resource for patients and colleagues alike. So after 25 years in wound care, I believe my ability to encourage and mentor has made an impact. I have also been fortunate to have collaborated with a brilliant scientist about 12 years ago on ways to heal wounds more efficiently and cost effectively. This effort resulted in the development of prototypes that eventually evolved into products that I see as having a real impact over time.
What does being a Difference Maker mean to you?
It means never becoming complacent. It means always challenging myself to do better through education, as well as through the application of knowledge and past experiences. It also means being accessible and willing to assist colleagues, and raising the bar for our specialty—especially when the unknowing seek to marginalize our efforts and impact.
What advice would you give someone pursuing wound care?
You will either love it or want nothing to do with it. Wound care is a calling…and if it turns out to be your calling then immerse yourself in it. This is one of those areas in life that there really is no gray area. Wound care is not glamorous, but whatever you invest in it, you will certainly receive back tenfold and in ways you might never imagine. If you want to be a difference maker, a career in wound care is certainly a way to do that.
Tell us a story that reminds you why you pursued your career?
While in my first year of residency, I was debriding a diabetic foot ulcer when I realized by my hunger pangs that it was nearly lunch time. I figured if I was getting hungry while working on a nasty wound, I must have some sort of aptitude for wound care!
In all seriousness though, I had encouragement to pursue wound care during my first year of training by my Residency Directors, one of them being Anne Sonoga. During my first week of clinic, I began following a patient who had been coming to the VA clinic for treatment of a venous leg ulcer for 8 years. In reviewing his chart, I kept reading the same treatment: Betadine and a dry dressing, week after week, year after year. Coincidentally, a wound care conference was coming to Philly and to the hotel next to the VA. I asked Anne if I could attend and permission was granted. What I learned that day opened my eyes and mind. From there, I began applying principles I learned at that conference, ranging from debridement and dressing selection to compression. By the end of my year at the VA, my patient had healed and the gratitude he expressed was apparent when he said he couldn’t wait to go swimming after not having been in a pool for years!
What’s something innovative you’ve done to advance the field of wound care?
I’m passionate about a few things. My work with The Save a Leg, Save a Life Foundation is what drives me. Amputation rates continue to rise despite all the technological advances and increased understanding of wounds that I have seen in the arc of my career. Despite our best efforts, we are failing. I believe that until the general population understands more about wounds, diabetes, PAD, and amputation, they will not embrace behaviors that can ultimately prevent wounds from occurring or worsening. We must drive the messaging of being proactive in preventing wounds versus being reactive and treating wounds as our focus.
My other “baby” is the work I am doing with Omeza. Seeing the results our products are already having and the positive impact on patients’ lives is almost surreal. I never imagined I would be working with a company that was born from the sharing of ideas and information within my clinical practice, but with no pretense of doing anything beyond that. We recently received our FDA clearance and clinical trials are underway to further validate the results we have seen to date. I like to say that Omeza resulted from the intersection of clinical practice and brilliant science.
Lastly, I am also passionate about my work with MD Coaches and our various efforts in mentoring, coaching, and helping medical professionals navigate through their careers. Physician burnout and rising suicide rates are real within the medical community. My colleagues at MD Coaches are incredibly talented and all-around wonderful individuals who coincidentally, have roots within the wound care community. The services provided by MD Coaches are lifting others up during some incredibly stressful times.