Every year, about one thousand medical students apply to podiatric medical school. Podiatric medicine is focused on the treatment of foot and ankle disorders. These health care professionals are educated in advanced techniques involving surgery, orthopedics, dermatology, physical medicine and rehabilitation. To learn more about this health care career, we spoke with Jane Andersen, DPM, President of The North Carolina Foot & Ankle Society. Dr. Andersen has 25 years of experience and is a mentor in the AACPM DPM Mentors Network. She frequently has students shadow her in the Chapel Hill area.
ExploreHealthCareers.org (EHC): Why did you choose health care?
Jane Andersen (JA): I’ve been interested in health care since I was young. I used to practice doing surgery on my stuffed animals at age 6, so I guess I was destined to be some sort of doctor.
EHC: There are so many different careers to explore in health care. What inspired you to enter this specific field?
JA: When I was an undergraduate at Indiana University, I walked miles every day, often in terrible shoes. Eventually, I developed a horrible foot pain. When I visited the student health center, four doctors stared at my foot and had absolutely no idea what was wrong with me. I was told to find a podiatrist, and after some research, I found one who promptly cured me of my problem. I love that this field allows me to make people feel better.
EHC: Briefly describe your work experience as well as your current position and what it entails.
JA: After I finished school, I completed a three-year residency at the VA in Palo Alto and Stanford University. I’ve worked at a county hospital and with a multispecialty group. Now, I work in a private practice with two other doctors, but our practice is part of a large supergroup, with associated offices across North and South Carolina.
Also, I’m the president of our state association and I serve the communications committee of the APMA, our national organization. This includes serving as a consultant for media requests in regard to foot and ankle health.
EHC: What are the day-to-day tasks for a podiatrist?
JA: In my practice, I usually arrive at about 8 a.m. and see patients most of the day until about 5 p.m. I often have charts to finish after that. On some days, I have surgery as early as 7:30 a.m. Occasionally, I have a patient in the hospital and will need to round on them daily, as well. When I’m in the office, I see a variety of problems including heel pain, tendinitis, bunions, hammertoes, metatarsalgia, broken bones, skin lesions and sports medicine. Many of my colleagues have much more intense lifestyles, taking calls from the hospital and performing surgery late into the evening. There are a variety of options in our profession, including research and teaching.
EHC: What do you wish the public understood about podiatry?
JA: That we do the bulk of foot and ankle surgery and we’re well trained to do so.
EHC: What advice do you have for students interested in going into podiatry?
JA: First, visit the AACPM website and check out the mentor’s network to find a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM) to shadow. You’ll have to shadow a podiatrist to apply to school. Check out the premed requirements (similar to other medical schools) and study hard.
EHC: Do you suggest any classes, programs or activities that are not directly related to medicine but that help students succeed in podiatry?
JA: My husband and I are both podiatrists. When I was young, I used to sew and he did woodworking. As it turns out, it helps to have both skills in surgery. When we were students, I helped him learn to suture and he helped me with power tools and screws. Neither is necessary, but both proved to be helpful.
EHC: Where should readers who are interested in podiatry go after they explore the information about it available on ExploreHealthCareers.org?
JA: Here are some great resources:
- American Association of Colleges of Podiatric Medicine
- DPM Mentors Network
- American Podiatric Medical Association