Podiatric Medicine as a Career

As a podiatrist, also known as a doctor of podiatric medicine (D.P.M.), you are trained to provide care for one of the most complex structures of the human body, the foot. You learn to diagnose and treat disorders, diseases, and injuries of the foot and lower leg, including corns, calluses, ingrown toenails, bunions, heel spurs, and arch problems; ankle and foot injuries, deformities, and infections; and foot complaints associated with arthritis, diabetes, and other diseases. Your education in podiatric medicine teaches you state-of-the-art treatment techniques involving surgery, orthopedics, dermatology, physical medicine, and rehabilitation.

You will benefit from pre-professional education that incorporates biology, organic and inorganic chemistry, physics, and other science courses typical of premedical students. Strong communication skills, both oral and written, are valued during your professional education and practice. Professional programs also expect you to be involved in extracurricular and community activities, and most require a personal interview and letters of recommendation as part of the admission process.

Your initial professional education provides classroom instruction in basic sciences, including anatomy, chemistry, microbiology, pathology, and pharmacology. Clinical rotations in private practices, hospitals, and clinics encompass the third and fourth years. During rotations, you learn to take general and podiatric histories, perform routine physical examinations, interpret tests and findings, make diagnoses, and perform therapeutic procedures.

Upon graduation with the D.P.M. degree, you are eligible to pursue a hospital-based residency program, lasting two to four years, where you receive advanced training in podiatric medicine and surgery and serve clinical rotations in anesthesiology, internal medicine, pathology, radiology, emergency medicine, and orthopedic and general surgery. Licensure, as specified by each state, is required for professional practice. Certification may be required for professional advancement.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects employment of podiatrists to increase 9 percent through 2016, about as fast as the average for all occupations. More people will turn to podiatrists for foot care because of the rising number of injuries sustained by a more active and increasingly older population. Opportunities will be better for board-certified podiatrists because many managed-care organizations require board certification.

According to the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA):

If you have a scientific aptitude, manual dexterity, strong interpersonal skills, a friendly bedside manner, the ability to collaborate with others in the healthcare team for your patients' benefit, and a temperament for the entrepreneurial enterprise of a private practice, a career in podiatric medicine may be just right for you.

Sources: American Podiatric Medical Association, Inc.; US Bureau of Labor Occupational Outlook Quarterly;