Staff Bios

Our Magnificent Team:

Dr Brenden Brown

(AKA BB or Dr Foot)

BB With one of his patients he is the one NOT in the yellow skirt!

You could describe Brenden, the founder of A Step Ahead, as engaging, encouraging, enlivening energetic, enthusiastic, vigorous, vital and vivacious and still fall 37 adjectives shy of perfectly describing his passion for work and for life. To say he’s your typical podiatrist is like saying Uluru is just another rock.

How it all began

He began A Step Ahead with the goal of assembling a staff of passionate people with an unquenchable thirst for life. He didn’t just want a team of podiatrists content with the status quo. Instead he wanted a team of podiatrists who dared to think big; who believed that good was the enemy of great; who understood that the harder you work, the wider the window; and who shared his boldness in thinking that they, as a staff, could better the lives of their patients.

To make this goal a reality, he went about organizing a crew. Believing that brilliance feeds brilliance, he, as a rule, only hired people smarter than himself. For as Brenden says, “If I’m the highest denominator, we’re all in trouble.”

And now, after more than 20 years as the face of A Step Ahead (or as he calls himself, “the guy who wears the fez”), his quest for bettering the lives of others has not wavered. Nor has it gone unnoticed. He has appeared on the Today ShowWhat’s Good for YouMornings with Kerri Anne and Current Affair, and has been featured in Men’s HealthCosmopolitan Magazine, the Sydney Morning HeraldNew IdeaThe AustralianThe Daily Telegraph and even the “all-knowing” Dolly Magazine, which described him as an “expert.”

Yet, despite these accolades, the endorsement he prides most came from a potential job candidate who turned down an offer with A Step Ahead under the reasoning, “They are not normal podiatrists. They make their staff work really hard.”

When away from the office, he relishes exploring all of life’s magical possibilities with his wife and daughters.

What patient or patients do you remember most?

One was an older man who could no longer walk his grand kids to school due to severe pain. Soon after we treated him and rectified his pain, he took up bush-walking with his grand kids. And the other patient I remember most was a young man who weighed 160 kilograms. He could not walk past his front gate without pain. So we fitted him with orthoses /insoles, giving him the ability to walk without pain. He then walked so much he returned one year later 45 kilos lighter and in need of new insoles to replace the original pair he wore out.

If you could meet anyone, who would it be?

Wow…Truly no one…Isn’t that crazy? I suppose the question should be framed, “Who do I admire?”…I have long admired Nelson Mandela. I admire former Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam. I admire any person, who despite popular opinion, has looked towards creating change for the greater good.

Do you have any unknown skills, facts or interests?

When I was young I was taken out of school by the Education Department and placed in what I call a “Hippy Camp.” I was selected as a potential “future leader of Australia” and was taught all sorts of crazy leadership and team building skills. I also had a microchip implanted in the back of my neck, which, I’m told, will be remotely activated when the time is right for me to lead the country. You can decide which bit is true.

What’s your biggest flaw?

Music. I would love to be able to read music, but I’m terrible at it. Also, I’m horrific at skipping.

Who would you be if you could live someone else’s life?

No one. I like the life I have. I love building my own life.

Proudest moment?

I have two:

My little girl’s scripture teacher asked her class, “Who would like to go to heaven?” All the kids in the class raised their hands except my daughter. When the teacher asked her, “Don’t you want to go to heaven?” she replied, “No. I like staying with my mum and dad if that’s okay?”

My little girl was moving from one school to another. The principal from the school she was leaving told my wife, “We will miss her. She is a great little girl, she is school captain material.” My wife cried, and then so did I.


 

Doctor Ken Yamamoto

The Person Behind the Job Title

In Doctor Ken’s past life (you know, like late teens) he played forward for New Zealand’s National U17 (under 17) Soccer Team. It allowed him to participate in the 2011 FIFA U17 World Cup held in Mexico, in which he helped his squad, for only the second time in Kiwi soccer history, advance to the tournament’s knockout stage. He has since traded his cleats for shoes to join our team. Though it took a while for him to stop falling to the office floor grimacing while clutching his ankle when anyone – patients and staff members alike – got within two meters of him, he has been an outstanding addition to A Step Ahead.

Outside of work

Outside of work Doctor Ken spends his time playing soccer, watching soccer, thinking soccer, dreaming soccer, talking soccer, and plotting vacations around soccer. He hopes to soon visit Barcelona, Spain to watch his favourite soccer team, FC Barcelona. If so he’ll need to find someone to dog sit Pickle his pug. Still a pup, brimming with energy, it requires constant attention, as recently evidenced when it ran into a wall, causing an ulcer to develop in its right eye. Forever the soccer-player-turned-doctor Ken took Pickle to the vet for needed attention, but not before, as rumor has it, issuing the wall a red card.  

The Professional Behind the Job Title

Born in Japan, raised in New Zealand, Doctor Ken, during his formative years, dominated on the soccer field. It allowed him the rare chance – that few get to enjoy – to consider a career as a professional athlete. But after returning from the 2011 FIFA World Cup he, at 17, decided to become a podiatrist – a decision he never second-guessed.

Podiatry, for Doctor Ken, was a natural fit. It matched all interests that he, by no surprise given his soccer background, had first-hand experience with: sports, injuries, lower-limb injury management, and medical care.

The same dedication he once applied to soccer he applied to his studies. In 2016 Doctor Ken proudly graduated from Auckland University of Technology with a degree in Podiatric Medicine/Podiatry.  

Looking for a clinic with a strong reputation in biomechanical and sports-related podiatry, he made the big leap from New Zealand to Australia to begin his podiatry career with A Step Ahead.

Doctor Ken’s quiet yet confident demeanor serves him well when seeing patients. Regardless of how big or small the ailment Doctor Ken treats every patient with devoted focus, taking immense satisfaction in knowing he’s helping them improve their quality of life. 

Why should people visit you at A Step Ahead?

I love doing my best to help anyone that walks in the door with a problem and getting them out of the door feeling better and happier.

What is your favourite ice cream flavour?

Any fruity flavour will do!

What is your proudest moment in life?

Playing for New Zealand and hearing the national anthem play before a match. I can still remember the goose bumps and excitement and the nerves all kicking in at once.

If you could have a dinner party with 2 historical/famous figures (living or dead) who would you invite and why?

Miranda Kerr – Always had an attraction for her! Seems like a cool person to have dinner with. My girlfriend probably won’t approve it though.

Cristiano Ronaldo – a true superstar in soccer. I love watching him play; one of my all time favourite players

What is your favourite quote?

Rule #1 of life – Do what makes you happy!


 

Doctor Ellen

The Person Behind the Job Title

Our Doctor Ellen is ambidextrous. Only 1% of the world population can make this claim making her very, very unique. We don’t know if she was born with this talent, but suspect it resulted from her dominant writing hand, during childhood, tiring and needing a break from writing her last name Mystegniotis. Regardless of how she came about being ambidextrous, the advantages of having a spare writing hand influenced many other aspects of her life. She’s also bilingual. And she’s bi-oodle. She owns two dogs: a cavoodle and a shnoodle, making her sound like a character from a Doctor Seuss story. Yet despite possessing all these rare talents she claims her proudest life-moment came on her 16th birthday when she got her driver’s license after being told she would never pass the test.  Although given what we know of Doctor Ellen we think her proudest adulthood moment occurred just recently when she tried Raman Noodles for the first time. We don’t know if Raman was on her Bucket List, but we do know visiting the Sistine Chapel is. She has a deep appreciation for Renaissance art. Not surprising given Renaissance superstar, Leonard da Vinci, was also ambidextrous and bilingual. Although, to our knowledge, he did not he own a cavoodle and a shnoodle. Or maybe he did. Maybe they’re what made Mona Lisa smile.

The Professional Behind the Job Title

Doctor Ellen has been practicing podiatry in and around Sydney for 26 years.

Admittedly podiatry was not her first career choice. She wanted to become a veterinarian and work with pets. But the witnessing of pets suffering caused her emotional distress, cueing her mentor, a Scottish veterinarian, to advise in a heavy Scottish accent, “Ah wee lassy, this ain’t the job furr yuu.”

Agreeing, she shifted focus towards pathology. During her studies in biomedical engineering she met her ex-husband who was working in podiatry. His interest jumpstarted her interest in the field, setting off a long and successful career.

Her love of helping others manifests in the compassion she shows in her work.  Always smiling, she works tirelessly for every patient, making follow-up calls to other doctors double-checking that her patients are being well tended to. It’s a trait that makes Doctor Ellen revered by her patients and a trait that makes us honored to call her a staff member.

Why should people visit you at A Step Ahead?

Because I care about my patients, I listen to my patient’s expectations and needs and I am good at what I do.

What is your favourite ice cream flavour?

Espresso salted caramel gelato.

If you could give an award out for anything at all what would it be for?

Human Spirit……Some people leave a fingerprint on your memory… their endurance and suffering is so deep and overwhelming…yet they can still gather themselves, put others first and maintain appositive demeanour to life.

If you could have a dinner party with 2 historical/famous figures (living or dead) who would you invite and why?

Hippocrates and Michelangelo. These two people fascinate me….both brilliant. We are talking BC here….I mean wow! Hippocrates was a forward thinker and his intelligence, what a thinker! And you have to love his quotes. The Renaissance period fascinates me. I am especially fond of the artwork, so why not the man who endured years on his back to paint that chapel! Id love to sit and chat with these two!

What is your favourite quote?

The Serenity Prayer:

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”


 

Doctor Ryan Romero

The Person Behind the Job Title

If, as they say, music washes away the dust of everyday life then our Doctor Ryan enjoys a very dust-free existence.

Despite being young enough to consider Pulp Fiction as an old movie, he, by his estimates, has already attended more than 150 live music events. It’s a full-blown passion born from his understanding of the old saying (old only by his standards) that talking about music is like dancing about architecture – it must be experienced.  When not tending to feet or cheering for musical encores he spends his other two waking hours growing his hair (imagine a Newtown celebrity chef with an uncanny knowledge of heel spurs) and officiating soccer games. All at the expense of his Instagram account which, when compared with his girlfriend’s, is woefully thin on followers. So after reading this, please, if you wouldn’t mind, follow Doctor Ryan. He’ll educate you on new restaurants (he considers eating a hobby, making Coles a hobby shop to him). Or perhaps update you on his lifelong dream of someday visiting Liverpool, England to watch the Liverpool Football Club (The Reds!) play at venerable Anfield.  Or maybe even grace your ears of him singing his favorite childhood song Murder on the Dance Floor by Sophie Ellis-Bextor.

The Professional Behind the Job Title

Local boy done good applies to Doctor Ryan. This West Sydney native is the pride of Rooty Hill High. During his four years his many accolades included serving as school captain and being named Student of the Year. After graduating he enrolled at Western Sydney University to pursue a degree in Health Science.   

As part of his studies he spent 16 months at the Sydney Children’s Hospital  - one of the top medical centers in the country. There he worked as an orthotic technician, manufacturing customized orthoses for kids suffering from a broad scope of medical conditions.

In 2016 Doctor Ryan graduated with first class honours in Health Science/Master of Podiatric Medicine. He then, thanks to a Services for Australian Rural and Remote Allied Health (SARRAH) scholarship, spent time in the northern territory, where hardship is a way of life, providing indigenous communities with much needed podiatric assistance.

Upon returning home he began work at A Step Ahead, jumping at the chance to serve his hometown community. His passion for listening, learning, and communicating has made Doctor Ryan a perfect addition to our staff.

Why do you do what you do? Why did you choose your career?

I am a podiatrist because I want to help and learn from people. I believe a large proportion of podiatry is all about communication, which is why I chose this profession. I love meeting people, hearing their stories, and learning. I am lucky because as a podiatrist I get to do all of these things. It provides me with the greatest amount of job satisfaction.

Why should people visit you at A Step Ahead?

Because I listen. No two patients are the same. Each patient is an individual and I treat them based on their individual needs.

What is your goal or aim as a Podiatrist when seeing patients?

My goal is for patients to walk in the door knowing that I am approachable and then, later, out of the door smiling, knowing that I have listened, they have been cared for, pleased with the service that has been provided.

If you could attend a concert given by a band that no longer exists or a musician who is no longer alive which band or which musician would you choose?

Just one? I could name heaps! If I had to say one, it would be Rage Against the Machine. Unfortunately, they are no longer together, so this is one band I would love to see in concert.

What is your favourite quote?

“Success doesn’t bring happiness. Happiness brings success.”


 

Shendi Brown

Shen glasses

Shendi yes shes the one without the beard!

Shendi has more titles than Amazon.com. Among them include: podiatry assistant, massage therapist, longest tenured staff member, office foot lollie distributor, Brenden Brown’s wife (yes, the same Brenden Brown from the bio above, who founded A Step Ahead), Brenden Brown’s go to girl, and Brenden Brown’s dream instigator. Her expertise in foot care allows her to travel with her husband, attending to the needs of the elderly in aged care facilities, and examining the feet of refinery workers in Brewarrina and Bourke.

And we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention her title of chocaholic. Shen craves chocolate like koala bears crave eucalyptus leaves. There are some on our staff who suspect Shen is Willy Wonka’s secret love child. But her tastes aren’t limited to chocolate. She also has a fondness for French wine. If not at A Step Ahead, she could see herself working as a cross between Willy Wonka and French sommelier. But unless France and Switzerland merge and begin producing Château Lafite-Rothschild-filled bontons, we’re confident Shen won’t be leaving us any time soon.

When not attending feet or pursuing chocolate, Shen enjoys cooking, skiing, scuba diving, exercising, and shopping for clothes.

 


 

Amber Hookey

Position: Receptionist

If the Nobel Prize people ever decide to add to its annual award bash the Nobel Prize in Organizing Amber should be the first recipient. She’s to organizing as Hugh Jackman is to Wolverine sequels. She keeps the office running smoothly, greeting and ushering patients in with all the organized efficiency of a seasoned party planner. Which, by no coincidence, she has experience with. All the more reason for her to be granted the Nobel Prize in Organizing – she could plan the awards party. It would also allow her to showcase her balloon sculpting skills. Amber, or Ambz as we call her at the office, is the Rodin of balloon sculpting, specializing in balloon topiary trees and balloon arches – a true heroine of helium. Yet her greatest source of pride comes from being the mother to Joshua, Kyah and Lachlan. (If you’re reading this Nobel Prize people notice how the first initials follow in perfect alphabetical sequence.) Ambz’s ever-present smile conveys her grasp of her favorite quote, “Enjoy the little things in life for one day you will look back and realize they were big things.” Which, come to think of it, would sound nicely in a Nobel Prize in Organizing acceptance speech.

Why should people visit you at A Step Ahead?

I am the friendly face that greets them as they enter our doors. I love hearing their stories. I’m always ready to lend an ear and have a laugh.

What is your favorite ice cream flavor?

Mint chocolate chip.

What is your favorite old movie?

Save the Last Dance

If you could have a dinner party with two historical figures who would they be?

Elvis Presley – who wouldn’t want to have dinner with the king of rock and roll? And Lee Harvey Oswald to find out if he killed JFK.

What is the best advice you were ever given?

Hard work and persistence wins in the end.


 

Amber Hookey

 

Position: Receptionist

If the Nobel Prize people ever decide to add to its annual award bash the Nobel Prize in Organizing Amber should be the first recipient. She’s to organizing as Hugh Jackman is to Wolverine sequels. She keeps the office running smoothly, greeting and ushering patients in with all the organized efficiency of a seasoned party planner. Which, by no coincidence, she has experience with. All the more reason for her to be granted the Nobel Prize in Organizing – she could plan the awards party. It would also allow her to showcase her balloon sculpting skills. Amber, or Ambz as we call her at the office, is the Rodin of balloon sculpting, specializing in balloon topiary trees and balloon arches – a true heroine of helium. Yet her greatest source of pride comes from being the mother to Joshua, Kyah and Lachlan. (If you’re reading this Nobel Prize people notice how the first initials follow in perfect alphabetical sequence.) Ambz’s ever-present smile conveys her grasp of her favorite quote, “Enjoy the little things in life for one day you will look back and realize they were big things.” Which, come to think of it, would sound nicely in a Nobel Prize in Organizing acceptance speech.

 

Why should people visit you at A Step Ahead?

I am the friendly face that greets them as they enter our doors. I love hearing their stories. I’m always ready to lend an ear and have a laugh.

 

What is your favorite ice cream flavor?

Mint chocolate chip.

 

What is your favorite old movie?

Save the Last Dance

 

If you could have a dinner party with two historical figures who would they be?

Elvis Presley – who wouldn’t want to have dinner with the king of rock and roll? And Lee Harvey Oswald to find out if he killed JFK.

 

What is the best advice you were ever given?

Hard work and persistence wins in the end.


 

Maria Howard

 Position: Receptionist

Maria, or GPS as she’s known at the office, carries the esteemed distinction of being the only grandmother we know who aspires to jump from a plane. (And yes, this marks the first time we’ve ever typed the words “grandmother” and “jump from a plane” in the same sentence.) All of which makes her favorite song choice – the Bee Gee’s Staying Alive – so deliciously fitting for someone with skydiving ambitions (a much better choice than say the Rolling Stone’s Shattered).  Ever full of life she’s the only staff member who when asked if she was a morning or night person answered “both.” All the more time for pursuing her many interests outside of work that include cheering and cursing her beloved Parramatta Eels and cheering and cursing our not so beloved politicians (she holds more political opinions than the Sydney Morning Herald’s op-ed page). But her greatest joy derives from spending time with her grandkids, savoring her role as nana. And from what we know of Maria we’re certain she, by example, imparts on them the life-embracing wisdom of her favorite quote: “Live well, laugh often, and love much.”

Do you have any unknown skills, facts or interests?

I worked for the Sydney Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (SOCOG), helping train the event volunteers for the 2000 Summer Olympics.  

If you could give an award for anything what would it be?

I would give it to all the outstanding people in the science and medical fields.

 

If you were an astronaut which planet would you visit?

I would visit Mars to see if it has any real men.

Favorite ice cream flavor?

Apple pie with fresh cream.

Which country or city would you most like to visit?

I have visited most countries and cities on my Bucket List. I still haven’t reached Hawaii and San Francisco. I hope to ride a San Francisco trolley and visit Hawaii’s Pearl Harbor.


 

Rachel Hudson

Podiatrist in Waiting

Rachel was awarded College Dux of her school. Need we say more? No. But let’s give it a try. Rachel, or Rach as most call her at the office, literally, not figuratively, has stars in her eyes. She lists astrophotography as a hobby. (No shame here. We had to look it up as well. It, as the name suggests, involves photographing the cosmos.) And she once gave thought to a career as an astrophysicist. We can’t say for certain but given the fact she considers herself more of a morning person than a night person may have swayed her career path towards podiatry. Whatever the reason we’re glad to have her on our staff. Rachel brilliantly runs our orthotic lab while balancing studies at the University of Western Sydney in pursuit of a podiatric medicine degree. When not chasing career ambitions or telling the man on the moon to say cheese, she enjoys painting, especially with water colours (although given drought conditions she may consider working in oils or acrylics). Rachel hopes to one day visit Nepal and hike the Annapurna Circuit. Not surprising considering the trek’s highest point, Thorung Pass, scrapes the sky at 5,416 meters, which would place Rachel that much closer to the stars above.  

What made you decide to join A Step Ahead?

I was a university student who had just started my Podiatry degree and wanted to get my foot in the door (pardon the pun!). Brenden and the team were so welcoming and friendly from the moment I started. I knew I would be working in an environment of continuous learning.

Why should people visit you at A Step Ahead?

People should visit A Step Ahead because we are hands-down the most experienced podiatrist in the area and provide treatment that works. Our staff genuinely care about our patients and their conditions. We want people to get back to living their life to the fullest, so that is exactly what we do- get you back on your feet!

What is your favourite ice cream flavour?

Peanut butter and chocolate.

If you could have a dinner party with 2 historical/famous figures (living or dead) who would you invite and why?

Dr Karl Kruszelnicki and JK Rowling - both are very intelligent and would provide interesting conversations.

What is the best advice you were ever given?

If you don’t have passion, then you have nothing. If you don’t believe in what you are doing, why would anyone else?


 

Noel Milligan

Podiatrist in Waiting

Noel, our student podiatrist, harbors many talents. But the one that pinnacles as truly unique is that he can look at any object in a room and immediately list its chemical compounds. It makes us suspect Noel is not a name but rather an acronym for Names Official Elements Legitimately. He’s humanity’s version of a walking Periodic Table with ginger hair. Which may explain his appreciation for comedian Tim Minchin, a fellow member of the ginger hair fraternity. And/or part of his attraction to A Step Ahead given clinic founder Brenden Brown’s ginger hair. (Noel, we’re certain, would like you to know that keratin, a long chain of amino acids, is the primary component of hair.) If Noel had to choose a second career he would pursue astronaut. Though we know he would succeed we prefer him here, on earth, at the office. His heart is too big for the solitary nature of astronauts. He’s always looking out for others, regardless if they have ginger hair or not, placing high stock in small gestures, always making sure staff members are acknowledged on their birthdays and that they’re aware the chemical compound of a birthday candle is CnH2n+2.  

What made you decide to join A Step Ahead?

When I decided to enter allied health and study Podiatry, I had fond memories of visiting A Step Ahead. Their work ethic and commitment to the community made it a no brainer.

What is your favourite ice cream flavour?

Coconut gelato.

Which Country or city you'd most like to visit and why?

Belfast (Fathers home) , Derry (Mother’s home) and Dublin (centre of the Irish republican movement).

If you could have a dinner party with 2 historical/famous figures (living or dead) who would you invite and why?

Albert Einstein and Gough Whitlam. Incredibly influential figures who showed great care for humanity.

What is your favourite quote?

“Success is science; if you have the conditions, you get the result.”  – Oscar Wilde