How to become a podiatrist
The term podiatrist refers to a professional who is involved in the study and medical treatment of the lower extremity. The term lower extremity involves thighs, legs, ankle and foot. Podiatry is a popular medical specialty and is practiced in most countries. The term podiatrist originated in northern America and is in use in most English speaking countries.
Orthopaedics and Podiatry are the two fields which have been involved in the care of the foot. Podiatry has the origin from Hippocrates. Hippocrates described corns and calluses and invented skin scrapers and scalpels to remove them. Chiropodists until the 18th century practiced independent of physicians and medical professional. A need was felt to encompass podiatry into the medical profession and the first school of podiatry was opened in 1911 at New York. Both the world wars saw huge number of casualties especially in the limbs. This gave a push to the field of podiatry and the number of podiatrists increased to a large extent. Further, podiatrists came to be known to the general public over the last century and today they have gained a major significance in the world of medical science.
In the US training for podiatric physicians, podiatric surgeons and podiatrists is begun by first completing advanced study in any podiatric medical school. The first degree awarded for podiatrists is Doctor of Podiatric Medicine Degree (D.P.M). After completion of DPM the individual can opt for further study and training in Podiatric surgery.
To obtain the DPM degree the individual has to undergo four years of undergraduate university training and subsequently complete four years of medical training in any podiatric medicine school. Hospital training is usually conducted from the 2nd to the 4th year. To obtain a state or provincial license the individual has to undergo additional residency training. The residency training program usually is between two to three years. Additional fellowship training in a subspecialty may be taken up by the individual.
The initial four year in a podiatric medical school comprises training which is similar to tradition medical (MD) program with emphasis on foot, ankle and lower extremity.
The residency consists of rotation through areas of medicine like General surgery, orthopedic, pediatric, medicine emergency, podiatry etc. The surgical training usually consists of foot surgery, ankle and leg reconstruction, foot salvage etc.
A podiatrist can independently diagnose, treat and prescibe medicines, as well as carry out surgery for disorders of the foot. Podiatrists can obtain three types of board certification. The board certification for primary care and orthopedics is the non surgical board certification. There are two types of surgical board certifications. These are rear foot and ankle reconstruction and foot surgery. The surgical board certification requires a minimum of three year residency. The applicants have to submit their surgical cases to the board. The board scrutinizes the cases in detail. The applicants have to appear a written and oral examination. After qualifying these requirements a board certification is given to the applicant. The pass rate for the board certification is very low due to the rigorous nature of the examinations.
A need for podiatrists is expected to rise at a slow rate by the US department of labour and bureau of labor statistics. Podiatrists need a state license to practice and the requirements are as laid down in the earlier paragraphs. Post doctoral fellowship is available for podiatrists in areas such as diabetic wound care, orthopedic surgery, dermatology etc. In the armed forces Podiatrists are commissioned officers and in the veterans' affairs sytem, they even serve as department heads. The practice income is relatively high for most podiatrists.
In the United States there are eight colleges dealing with podiatric medicine. The American Association of Colleges of Podiatric Medicine (AACPM) governs these colleges. The colleges are :
New York College of Podiatric Medicine
California School of Podiatric Medicine at Samuel Merritt College
Dr. William M. Scholl College of Podiatric Medicine at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science
Temple University School of Podiatric Medicine
College of Podiatric Medicine and Surgery at Des Moines University
Ohio College of Podiatric Medicine
Arizona Podiatric Medicine Program at Midwestern University
Barry University School of Podiatric Medicine
There are colleges outside the US which teach podiatry to undergraduates. The colleges in Australia are wellknown for podiatry. Some of them are :
University of South Australia
University of Newcastle
Queensland University of Technology
Charles Sturt University
University of Western Australia
However it may be noted that the degree holders in podiatry from UK and Australia are not eligible for licensure in the US as they are considered of lesser level of education than DPM.
It is always advisable to get first hand information and second hand information about any college if you are planning to specialize in podiatry.