The American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) describes doctors of podiatric medicine (DPMs) as clinicians who diagnose and treat conditions affecting the foot, ankle and related structures of the leg. Podiatrists are defined as physicians by the federal government and by most states. They are licensed by the state in which they practice. DPMs receive four years of graduate medical education comparable to medical doctors and two or three years of residency training. This field offers some of the same benefits as a career in medicine such as direct patient care, autonomy, intellectual challenge, high pay, and the opportunity to significantly impact a patient’s quality of life. For most podiatrists, the regular hours also allow for a good work-life balance.
Podiatrists have a broad range of practice options open to them including pediatrics, dermatology, sports medicine, biomechanics, geriatrics, surgery or primary care. Many choose to go into private practice but other common practice settings include hospitals, clinics, health networks, assisted living facilities, and government agencies such as the US Public Health Service and the Department of Veteran Affairs.
On a daily basis podiatrists treat foot and ankle conditions of patients with chronic illnesses such as diabetes, arthritis, obesity, heart disease, and peripheral arterial disease. Good podiatric care may prevent complications from resulting from these conditions. Podiatrists may be involved in treating a wide range of other problems including trauma, pediatric deformities, and heel pain. They can help patients become more mobile and participate in daily activities with greater ease.
Fast Facts about the Foot from APMA
- Each foot has 26 bones – both feet contain nearly one quarter of all the bones (206) of the body.
- Each foot is made up of an intricate network of over 100 tendons, ligaments, and muscles.
- Every step places 1.5 times your body weight of pressure on your foot (a 150-pound person places 225 pounds of pressure on the foot with every step).
- The average person walks 5,000 to 7,000 steps a day. The American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) estimates that the average person will walk nearly 100,000 miles in a lifetime, between three to four times the earth’s circumference.
Exposure to the Field, Shadowing, and Volunteering
Some programs will not accept an applicant who has not visited a podiatric practice. A letter of recommendation from a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine is commonly required to apply. You can use the DPM Mentor Network at http://www.aacpm.org/contactpod/default.asp to find podiatrists and current podiatric medicine students who are willing to discuss their career choice with prospective students.
American Podiatric Medical Association
www.apma.org/careers or www.todayspodiatrist.com
American Association of Colleges of Podiatric Medicine (AACPM)
American Podiatric Medical Students Association
Bureau of Labor Statistics
Occupational Outlook for Podiatrists: http://stats.bls.gov/oco/ocos075.htm