Podiatric medicine is a branch of the medical sciences devoted to the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of foot disorders resulting from injury or disease. 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.
Employment of doctors of podiatric medicine is projected to grow 14% from 2014 to 2024, faster than the average for all occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In order to become a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (D.P.M.), students must first earn a bachelor’s degree and then apply to and be accepted at a college of podiatric medicine. The D.P.M. program is four years, with two years of classroom instruction and laboratory work, followed by clinical science courses and practical experience in college clinics, community clinics and accredited hospitals.
Medical school is followed by residency training, which provides a combination of medical and surgical experiences that are competency-based. Podiatric medical graduates select a 36-month podiatric medicine and surgery residency that includes training in rear foot and ankle surgery.
Many practitioners focus on a particular area of podiatric medicine, including surgery, sports medicine, biomechanics, geriatric care, pediatrics, orthopedics or primary care. Additionally, care of diabetic patients is a rapidly growing podiatric medicine specialization as lower extremity problems often develop.
Since the podiatric physician is often the first to detect symptoms of serious disorders, he or she becomes a vital and sometimes lifesaving member of the health care team. The skills of podiatric physicians are in increasing demand because disorders of the foot and ankle are among the most widespread and neglected health problems.