HSS Foot and Ankle Surgeon Spearheads Event to Provide New Shoes and Free Foot Exams to Homeless
Dr. Matthew Conti started nonprofit “Our Hearts to Your Soles” when he was 15 years old
Matthew Conti, MD, an orthopedic foot and ankle surgeon at Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS), and colleagues recently provided more than 100 pairs of new shoes and socks and offered free foot exams to homeless people at the Mainchance Drop-In Center in New York City. Dr. Conti, who recently joined HSS, launched the nonprofit Our Hearts to Your Soles when he was just 15 years old with his father, also a foot and ankle surgeon.
The shoe giveaway in New York was one of 17 Our Hearts to Your Soles events in multiple states taking place in November and December. Orthopedic surgeons and other volunteers nationwide donate their services to provide much-needed footwear and exams to people who don’t have a place to call home. Along with Dr. Conti, his wife, three orthopedic surgeons in the HSS fellowship program and other hospital staff volunteered at the New York event on November 19.
Dr. Conti made it his mission to help when he was in high school. Volunteering at a wound care clinic in Pittsburgh, he saw the potentially devastating consequences when people with diabetes or another health condition develop severe wounds on their feet. He began to think about homeless people who develop foot problems because they don’t have a proper pair of shoes, especially during the cold weather months. A lack of access to medical care exacerbates the problem, potentially leading to foot infections, frostbite… or worse.
In 2004, Dr. Conti teamed up with his father, Stephen Conti, MD, a foot and ankle surgeon in Pittsburgh, to launch Our Hearts to Your Soles to provide desperately needed footwear, socks and foot exams to homeless people. The organization has grown, and over the past 15 years has provided more than 50,000 pairs of shoes to people in need at annual events nationwide.
For this year’s shoe-giveaway in New York, Dr. Conti partnered with Mainchance, which serves a diverse street homeless population of single adults. Center administrators identified and reached out in advance to clients who would benefit from new shoes, socks and foot exams, and 105 individuals showed up.
Fortunately, nobody needed emergency foot care, but many desperately needed shoes. “The men and women we saw were very grateful. We saw multiple people who were jamming their feet into shoes that were 2 or 3 sizes too small,” Dr. Conti said. “One person absolutely lit up because he wore a size 15 shoe, but he said no one ever has his size.”
For Kayla Collins, a patient care assistant at HSS who volunteered, the event hit close to home. “When I was younger, my mom had to move us into a shelter, so I personally understand what this event means to people who are less fortunate,” she explained. “It’s a humbling experience, and any opportunity I have to give back, I try to do so because you never know when you might find yourself in a similar situation.”
Several orthopedic surgeons doing their fellowship training at HSS also helped out. "I’m fortunate to work at a teaching hospital where I mentor foot and ankle surgical fellows, as well as residents,” Dr. Conti explained. “This event provided them with a different patient care experience and allowed them to practice different skills, such as fitting people for shoes. As surgeons, we don’t do this every day, but in a short amount of time, we helped men and women feel more protected from the elements and avoid potential foot and ankle ailments.”
This year, Red Wing Shoes generously donated 2,500 well-made, sturdy pairs of shoes for the nationwide events. The footwear is ideal for the many recipients who work outdoors.
Our Hearts to Your Soles only accepts donations of new footwear because, as Dr. Conti explains, “in addition to providing protection, a gift of brand-new shoes provides a tremendous boost to recipients’ self-esteem.”
HSS is the world’s leading academic medical center focused on musculoskeletal health. At its core is Hospital for Special Surgery, nationally ranked No. 1 in orthopedics (for the 14th consecutive year), No. 2 in rheumatology by U.S. News & World Report (2023-2024), and the best pediatric orthopedic hospital in NY, NJ and CT by U.S. News & World Report “Best Children’s Hospitals” list (2023-2024). In a survey of medical professionals in more than 20 countries by Newsweek, HSS is ranked world #1 in orthopedics for a fourth consecutive year (2023). Founded in 1863, the Hospital has the lowest readmission rates in the nation for orthopedics, and among the lowest infection and complication rates. HSS was the first in New York State to receive Magnet Recognition for Excellence in Nursing Service from the American Nurses Credentialing Center five consecutive times. An affiliate of Weill Cornell Medical College, HSS has a main campus in New York City and facilities in New Jersey, Connecticut and in the Long Island and Westchester County regions of New York State, as well as in Florida. In addition to patient care, HSS leads the field in research, innovation and education. The HSS Research Institute comprises 20 laboratories and 300 staff members focused on leading the advancement of musculoskeletal health through prevention of degeneration, tissue repair and tissue regeneration. In addition, more than 200 HSS clinical investigators are working to improve patient outcomes through better ways to prevent, diagnose, and treat orthopedic, rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases. The HSS Innovation Institute works to realize the potential of new drugs, therapeutics and devices. The HSS Education Institute is a trusted leader in advancing musculoskeletal knowledge and research for physicians, nurses, allied health professionals, academic trainees, and consumers in more than 165 countries. The institution is collaborating with medical centers and other organizations to advance the quality and value of musculoskeletal care and to make world-class HSS care more widely accessible nationally and internationally. www.hss.edu.