Information courtesy of New York College of Podiatric Medicine .
Last updated December 2010
Podiatric Medicine is the highly specialized branch of medicine dedicated to the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease and disorders affecting the foot, ankle and lower extremities. There are approximately 14,000 practicing doctors of podiatric medicine in the United States. The skills of these physicians are in increasing demand because foot disorders are among the most widespread and neglected health problems affecting people in this country. Today, podiatric doctors are providing specialized foot care to more patients than ever before. Because the foot has a complex interrelation with the rest of the body, it may be the first area to show signs of serious systemic conditions, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The podiatric doctor is often the first to detect symptoms of these disorders and becomes a vital and sometimes lifesaving link in the health care team.
The increasing demand for services of podiatric physicians probably stems from two factors. First, as more Americans engage in exercise and fitness programs, more of them become aware of the limits foot and ankle pain places on full participation. Second, since foot and ankle problems are often the result of a lifetime of neglect, and the number of older Americans is increasing almost three times as fast as the population as a whole, they may account for a disproportionate share of the growing demand. As the trend continues towards physical fitness, with greater emphasis placed on sports medicine, the importance of the podiatric doctor is becoming more and more apparent in many of the nation's leading hospitals and treatment centers.
Studying in the field
The course of instruction leading to the DPM degree is four years in length. The first two years are devoted largely to classroom instruction and laboratory work in the basic medical sciences, such as anatomy, physiology, microbiology, biochemistry, pharmacology, and pathology. During the third and fourth years, students concentrate on courses in the clinical sciences, gaining experience in the college clinics, community clinics, and accredited hospitals. Clinical courses include general diagnosis (history taking, physical examination, clinical laboratory procedures, and diagnostic radiology), therapeutics (pharmacology, physical medicine, orthotics, and prosthetics), surgery, anesthesia, and operative podiatric medicine.
Residency & State licensure
Graduates complete a one to three residency at an accredited teaching hospital. After completing the four-year course and receiving the DPM degree, the graduate is eligible to take a state board examination to obtain a license to practice in about one-third of the states; two-thirds require an additional year of postdoctoral work before licensure.
Job opportunities in the field
Podiatric physicians are licensed in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico to treat the foot and its related or governing structures by medical, surgical, or other means. The vast majority of states also include ankle care as part of the podiatric physician's scope of practice. In addition to private offices, podiatric physicians serve on the staffs of hospitals and long-term care facilities, on the faculties of schools of medicine and nursing, as commissioned officers in the Armed Forces and US Public Health Service, in the Department of Veterans Affairs, and in municipal health departments. Many podiatrists today are also members of group medical practices.
- podiatric orthopedics
- podiatric surgery
- primary podiatric medicine
Board certification is confirmed upon a podiatric physician who has satisfactorily passed written and oral examinations and has demonstrated knowledge and experience in his or her chosen specialty. Board Certification is granted by the American Board of Podiatric Orthopedics and Primary Podiatric Medicine, in Chicago, and the American Board of Podiatric Surgery, in San Francisco.