Most Americans spend a lot of time on their feet. With an aging population combined with active age groups, there’s a need for foot care. The human foot has a total of 26 bones-plus nerves, ligaments, muscles, and blood vessels. As bipeds, the 52 bones in our feet comprise one forth of all the bones in the human body. It is the podiatrists role to diagnose and treat disorders, diseases, and injuries of the foot and lower leg.
These doctors of podiatric medicine (DPMs) treat an array of foot problems: corns, calluses, ingrown toenails, bunions, heel spurs, ankle and foot injuries, deformities, warts, diabetic foot care, and infections. In the treatment of these disorders, the podiatrist will prescribe medications, set fractures, perform surgery, and administer physical therapy. They also fit corrective shoe inserts called orthotics, design plaster casts and strappings to correct deformities, and design custom-made shoes.
There are currently nine colleges of podiatric medicine fully accredited by the Council on Podiatric Medical Education (CPME). These colleges are located in: Arizona, California, Iowa, Florida, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Illinois. Though there are eight states listed-this only amounts to nine accredited podiatric schools of medicine. These nine colleges offer four year programs whose core curriculum is similar to those in other schools of medicine. During the first two years, the students receive instruction on basic sciences, including anatomy, chemistry, pathology, and pharmacology. Third and forth year students have clinical rotations in private practices, hospitals and clinics. During these rotations, students learn how to take a medical history, perform routine physical examinations, interpret tests, make diagnoses, and perform therapeutic procedures.
This is an expensive proposition. The American Association of Colleges of Podiatric Medicine (AACPM) reports the annual tuition in 2012 for the nine member schools ranged from $27,830 to $32,671 per year.
After graduating with a DPM, most podiatrists complete a hospital-residency program which lasts two to four years. Here, the resident receives advanced training in podiatric medicine and surgery via clinical rotations in these departments:
- Internal Medicine
- Emergency Medicine
- Orthopedic and General Surgery
All states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico require a license for the practice of podiatric medicine. Each state has its own requirements, although many states have reciprocity agreements with other states. Thereby granting the podiatrist the ability to change states and not require re-licensing.
Applicants for licensure must have graduated from one of the nine accredited podiatric colleges and must pass an oral and written examination. Most states also necessitate that the applicant has completed three years of postgraduate residency in an approved health care institution.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has projected the job growth/change to be 23% through 2022 which is above average for all occupations. The median annual salary was $116,440 in 2012. The website for the AACPM reported in 2008 that 30% of DPMs fell into the $101,000 to $150,000 salary range.
This is a profession where one can set her/his own hours if in a private practice. Most podiatrists work a 40 hour work week. Therefore, there is ample time for family and leisure activities.
One final note- it’s highly advocated by the profession that practicing podiatrists join the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) to receive continuing education information as well as details on national conferences conducted by the APMA Annual Scientific Meeting committee.