A Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (D.P.M.) specializes in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases, injuries and deformities affecting the human foot and ankle. Doctors of podiatric medicine perform and order all necessary diagnostic tests and treatments, including laboratory tests, x-rays, CAT scans, surgery, medications and physical therapy programs. These doctors are educated in state-of-the-art techniques involving surgery, orthopedics, dermatology, physical medicine and rehabilitation. Podiatrists can work in general or group practices and are free to develop a special practice focus such as pediatrics, geriatrics or sports medicine. Possible career settings also include foot clinics associated with hospitals. In addition to private practice, they serve on the staff of hospitals and long-term care facilities, on the faculties of schools of medicine and nursing, as Commissioned Officers in the armed forces and in the U.S. Public Health Service and in municipal health departments.
Podiatrists are one of the few types of health care providers that can give immediate alleviation of pain. Some of the great stories from the profession come from practitioners who watch patients walk into their office in extreme pain, be treated by them, and walk out feeling better. Another positive aspect of the profession is the amount and quality of patient contact. Podiatrists see an average of 90 patients per week, and the time spent doing procedures and examinations calls for a podiatric physician to interact with the patient, not to just hand the patient off to an assistant or aide. Podiatrists enjoy a lifestyle that is “normal”; they work regular office hours, schedule surgeries during the workday, and rarely get called to tend to emergencies. Podiatric physicians, as rule, do not need to put in 70 – 80 hour workweeks, which are common in some other branches of the medical community. There are more than 1,400 podiatric shortage areas in the United States; 2,300 counties in America have no podiatrists at all. It is estimated that the United States should have 6.2 podiatrists per 100,000 population to meet needs; we now have 4 podiatrists per 100,000. The current emphasis on physical fitness and recreation combined with the growing population of the elderly are creating a new demand for podiatric physicians. There is only 1 podiatrist for every 23,000 Americans, compared with 1 M.D. for every 600 and 1 dentist for every 2,000. When areas of podiatric practice such as sports medicine are combined with the growth of traditional areas (podogeriatrics, orthopedics, podiatric surgery, etc.) and the desires of the baby boom generation to maintain their active lifestyles, it is estimated that the number of podiatrists will have to double in the coming decade to meet the demand for podiatric health care. Podiatric medicine is the third fastest-growing occupation in the United States among those professions that require a college education.
There are nine colleges of podiatric medicine in the United States. Their total enrollment is approximately 2,500 and they admit about 645 new students each year. Approximately 50% of first year students are women; minority students represent 35% of matriculants. Approximately 80% of all applicants are accepted. In-state tuition at the colleges ranges from $ 28,000 to $ 33,000 per year. Podiatric medical education typically takes seven years to complete. In addition to typical medical school subjects, courses in biomechanics, lower extremity anatomy, orthopedics and sports medicine are taken. The first two years of the training are devoted to 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 judgment. Podiatric residency training provides experiences that are resource-based, competency-driven and assessment-validated. Podiatric Medicine and Surgery Residences are 36 months in length; and can include training in reconstructive foot and ankle surgery. The national mean salary for podiatrists was $ 133,870 in 2011, with the Georgia average salary being $ 134,160 and the Atlanta area mean salary at $ 145,490.
Further information is readily available from the American Association of Colleges of Podiatric Medicine, http://www.aacpm.org and http://www.apma.org.
Admission to a college of podiatric medicine requires completion of specific prerequisites at the undergraduate level (which typically takes four years). These courses are available at Oglethorpe University; contact Dr. Dan Schadler (email@example.com) for further information.