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About

Podiatry as a career option often goes unmentioned to pre-health students. In fact, podiatric medicine is a relatively small field. There are only a handful of podiatric medicine schools across the globe. They are primarily found in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. Podiatric medicine is not recognized in many countries, such as India. Despite its relative obscurity, podiatry deserves consideration.

Podiatry is the specific branch of medicine that deals with diagnosis and treatment of conditions of the foot and ankle. This specialty is generally practiced by Doctors of Podiatric Medicine, or podiatrists. Podiatrists are "real" doctors and many are certified in primary medicine. Although specializing in a particular medical discipline, podiatrists could conceivably practice in other disciplines as well, based on their education and expertise. A podiatrist is the only healthcare professional whose total training focuses on the foot, ankle and lower extremities below the knee. Podiatrists specialize in diagnosing, treating, and preventing diseases and injuries in these areas. They are able to perform surgery on all of the above and have a special understanding and knowledge of the biomechanics of the foot, proper molding of orthotics and diabetic foot care. They are trained in all surgical procedures for correcting deformities of the foot. Podiatrists care for people of all ages, treating any foot problem, among them bunions, corns, ingrown toenails, plantar warts, and fungus of the toenail.

Working as a podiatrist can be exciting and rewarding. It involves working in a variety of environments with a number of other health care professionals and many different groups of patients who have a wide range of podiatric problems. The scope of practice of a podiatrist is often much wider than many people realize. Podiatrists can be found in private practice, clinics, and hospitals. Podiatrists may also advance to become professors at colleges of podiatric medicine, department chiefs in hospitals, or general health administrators. In general, the practice of podiatric medicine lends itself to flexible hours and is therefore comfortable for individuals who want time for family, friends and other involvements that characterize a balanced lifestyle. The work hours of a podiatric physician can vary from 30 to 60 hours a week. 

Training

Before anyone can be admitted into a college of podiatric medicine, one must complete at least 90 hours of undergraduate study, but please note, about 95 percent of podiatric students have at least a bachelor's degree. Admission to podiatric colleges usually requires at least 8 semester hours each of biology, inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, and physics and at least 6 hours of English. The science courses should be those designed for premedical students. A good grade point average is a critical requirement, especially for those interested in being accepted to the most prestigious podiatric schools. In addition, most medical schools across the globe require some form of admission test, such as the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) in the United States, the Undergraduate Medicine and Health Science Admission Test (UMAT) in Australia, or the National Medical Admission Test (NMAT) in the Philippines.

The podiatric schools offer a curriculum similar to that of most medical schools. The degree of Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (D.P.M.) is awarded after four years of study at an accredited podiatric medical college. Although the colleges differ in size and location, the curriculum leading to the D.P.M. degree is similar at each institution. The first two years concentrate on classroom instruction and laboratory work in the basic medical sciences. As is the case for all physicians, the coursework includes anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, pharmacology, microbiology, pathology, immunology, etc. In addition, podiatric medical students learn the fundamentals of specialized medicine, including biomechanics, lower extremity anatomy, podiatric pathology, infectious diseases, orthopedics, and sports medicine courses.

The third and fourth years of study focus on the clinical sciences and patient care. Clinical exposures begin as early as the second year. Students of podiatric medicine gain practical experience by working in podiatric clinics in any of a variety of settings, including community clinics, hospitals, private practices or professional office settings. Throughout these clinical rotations, the students learn how to perform examinations, take patient histories, read tests and x-rays, and make diagnoses.

After they have finished their fourth year, students become Doctors of Podiatric Medicine (DPM). The next step is to complete their residency program in a hospital. Graduates select a Podiatric Medicine and Surgery Residency of 24 or 36 months in duration (2 to 4 years). In most states, podiatric physicians must complete a minimum of one year of post graduate residency training in an approved healthcare institution; two years are required for board certification. During residency podiatrists learn how to perform surgery and other medical processes such as anesthesiology or radiology. Someone interested in a career in podiatric medicine must also decide if he or she wishes to focus on a specialized field, such as sports injuries, diabetic foot care, geriatric or pediatric foot care, or surgery. In those cases, additional time in residency may be necessary.

Exams

Admission to a college of podiatric medicine requires a suitable score on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). (Some colleges also may accept the Dental Admission Test or the Graduate Record Exam.) 

To practice podiatric medicine, all States and the District of Columbia require a license. Each State defines its own licensing requirements, although many States grant reciprocity to podiatrists who are licensed in another State. Applicants for licensure must be graduates of an accredited college of podiatric medicine and must pass written and oral examinations. Some States permit applicants to substitute the examination of the National Board of Podiatric Medical Examiners, given in the second and fourth years of podiatric medical college, for part or all of the written State examination. In general, States require a minimum of 2 years of postgraduate residency training in an approved healthcare institution. For licensure renewal, most States require continuing education.

There are a number of certifying boards for the podiatric specialties of orthopedics, primary medicine, and surgery. Certification has requirements beyond licensure. Each board requires advanced training, the completion of written and oral examinations, and experience as a practicing podiatrist. Most managed-care organizations prefer board-certified podiatrists.

Application

Potential podiatric medical students may be evaluated on the basis of their grade point average (GPA), performance on the MCAT (or the GRE or DAT), extra curricular and community activities, personal interview, professional potential, etc. Admission criteria may vary slightly by institution; therefore, contact the college(s) of your choice to obtain a copy of its catalog for specific requirements. A number of factors are considered in admitting students to a college of podiatric medicine. Undergraduates with liberal arts backgrounds, as well as those with science majors, are encouraged to apply.

The American Association of Colleges of Podiatric Medicine Applications Service (e-AACPMAS) allows you to apply to all nine of the nation’s schools and colleges of podiatric medicine with one online application. e-AACPMAS provides a simplified process of applying to the schools and colleges of podiatric medicine. Applicants complete one application and submit it with corresponding materials to the centralized service. e-AACPMAS verifies the applications components for accuracy, calculates the applicant’s grade point averages (GPA), and delivers the materials to the podiatric schools and colleges that the applicant designates.

AACPMAS begins processing admission applications in early September each year for Fall admission the following year. Deadline dates should be checked and adhered to. For priority consideration apply April 1st of each year for the upcoming Fall admission. The final application deadline date is June 30th of each year for Fall admission of the same year. 

Support and Information

American Assosciation of Colleges of Podiatric Medicine (AACPM)                                             The best site for all things podiatry! FAQs, mentors, application process and more.

American Podiatric Medical Assosciation (APMA)                                                                   The APMA advances and advocates for the profession of podiatric medicine and surgery for the benefit of its members and the public.

Podiatry Channel                                                                                                               An internet community for future and current podiatrists. 

Podiatry-Arena.com                                                                                                         The purpose of Podiatry Arena is to provide a resource with all the latest news, research, theories, ideas and discussions for Podiatrists and other foot health related professionals.

Much thanks to wisegeek, USDL, and EHC for the information on podiatry.