Podiatrist (Doctor of Podiatric Medicine)
Podiatric medicine is a branch of the medical sciences devoted to the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of foot disorders resulting from injury or disease. A doctor of podiatric medicine is to the foot what a dentist is to the mouth or an ophthalmologist to the eye - a specialist who has undergone lengthy, thorough study to become qualified to treat a specific part of the body.
A Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (D.P.M.) makes independent judgments and performs or orders all necessary diagnostic tests. They perform surgery, administer medications and prescribe physical therapy regimens. Podiatric physicians are educated in state-of-the-art techniques involving surgery, orthopedics, dermatology, physical medicine and rehabilitation.
The human foot has a complex interrelation with the rest of the body, which means that it may be the first area to show signs of serious conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Podiatrists often detect serious health problems that may otherwise go unnoticed, because a number of diseases manifest first through symptoms of the lower extremities (i.e., diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, or kidney disease).
Podiatrists work in private or group practices. They may focus on a specialty such as pediatrics, geriatrics or sports medicine, for example. In addition to private practice, podiatrists may:
Because podiatrists in private practice set their own hours, it is a flexible career, making it a good fit for people who want or need a balanced lifestyle. Generally, podiatrists work between 30 and 60 hours a week.
About a Career as a Podiatrist
About Health Care Careers
Note: The American Association of Colleges of Podiatric Medicine reviewed this profile.
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If you wish to become a podiatrist, you must first get a bachelor’s degree and then apply to an accredited podiatric medical college. Your graduate school course of study will take four years, after which you will receive a degree of Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (D.P.M.).
The first two years concentrate on classroom instruction and laboratory work in the basic medical sciences. The third and fourth years of study focus on the clinical sciences and patient care. As is the case for all physicians, the coursework includes anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, pharmacology, microbiology, pathology, immunology and other courses related to medicine.
In addition, podiatric medical students learn the fundamentals of specialized medicine, including biomechanics, lower extremity anatomy, podiatric pathology, infectious diseases, orthopedics and sports medicine.
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, satellite clinics or professional office settings.
After completing podiatric medical school, you move on to residency training. A residency provides podiatrists with the chance to get specialized training through rotations such as anesthesiology, internal medicine, infectious disease, surgery, ER and pediatrics.
Podiatric medical graduates select a 36-month podiatric medicine and surgery residency that includes training in rear foot and ankle surgery.
Our timeline is a helpful guideline as you prepare for entry to a school of podiatric medicine.
Summer Before Your Senior Year
Meet with a pre-health advisor to review completed coursework and prerequisites.
Attend interviews with schools.
Volunteer or work in a medical setting (i.e., clinic, ER, hospital). Read these guidelines for making your volunteer experience valuable.
Continue extracurricular activities and leadership roles on and off campus.
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Last updated: April 29, 2016
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