Podiatric Medicine (Podiatry)

What is podiatric medicine?

Podiatric medicine, formerly called podiatry, is a branch of the medical sciences devoted to the study of human movement, with the medical care of the foot and ankle as its primary focus. A doctor of podiatric medicine is to the foot what a dentist is to the mouth or an ophthalmologist is the eye - a specialist who has undergone lengthy, thorough study to become uniquely well qualified to treat a specific part of the body. There are about 14, 000 practicing podiatrists in the U.S. The middle 50% earned by podiatrists in 2000 was between $77,440 and $134.900 per year with a median income of about $96,200. Advantages of this restricted medical practice are the variety and variations of practice, nearly all of which provide time for family life.

A doctor of podiatric medicine (DPM) specializes in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of foot disorders, diseases, and injuries. A DPM makes independent judgments, utilizes x-rays and laboratory tests for diagnostic purposes, prescribes medications, orders physical therapy, sets fractures, and when necessary performs surgery. The DPM works closely with other health professionals to treat and control disease.

The human foot is a complex structure designed for balance and mobility containing 26 bones, plus muscles, nerves, ligaments, and blood vessels. Because of this function, the foot has a highly significant 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 heart disease. For example, diabetics are prone to foot ulcers and infections due to their poor circulation. Since the podiatric physician is often the first to detect symptoms of these disorders, he or she becomes a vital and sometimes lifesaving link in the health care team.

Podiatrists may spend time performing surgery at a hospital or visiting patients at nursing homes, but the majority of their time is spent in a private practice office. They must develop more business skills than other physicians to be successful. As a trade off, when compared to other physicians, podiatrists set their own hours and have fewer after-hours emergencies or "on call" responsibilities.

For more information on careers in podiatric medicine, contact the: American Podiatric Medical Association

Areas of emphasis in podiatric medicine :

In addition to a general practice in podiatric medicine, other areas of interest and specialization include:

Orthopedics/Biomechanics - Prevention, diagnoses, and treatment of imperfect foot structure and function through the use of prostheses, orthoses, appliances, physical treatment, medications, exercises, and special footgear.

Podiatric Surgery - Utilization of modern operative procedures, including prosthetic joint implants, plastic surgery, and deformity correction techniques for the alleviation of various foot disorders.

Podopediatrics - Prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of children's foot problems.

Podogeriatrics - Prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of foot disorders common among the aged.

Podiatric Sports Medicine - Prevention, diagnosis, and treatment and rehabilitation of foot problems of athletes and those involved with physical fitness activities.

Many students interested in the "medical" aspects of the sports medicine field, rather than the "training" aspects, are attracted to podiatric medicine. Like practitioners of other medical specialties , podiatric physicians incorporate sports medicine into their existing practices.

Colleges of podiatric medicine:

Six of the seven colleges of podiatric medicine are represented by the American Association of Colleges of Podiatric Medicine (AACPM). The AACPM administers the centralized applications submitted for admission to its six member colleges that are located in San Francisco, CA; Miami Shores, FL; Chicago, IL; Des Moines, IA; Cleveland, OH; and Philadelphia, PA. Potential applicants to these colleges should visit the AACPM web site at www.aacpm.org or call their toll free number at 1-800-922-9266. Application request cards are available from podiatric medicine advisors or applications may be downloaded from the web-site at www.aacpm.org. The annual tuition is about $20,000 per year and does not include fees, books, or room and board. The professional academic program is four years long and an additional two years of residency is a minimum before taking appropriate licensure examinations.

Characteristics of applicants and matriculants:

There are about 800-1,000 applicants to podiatric medical school each academic year, of which approximately 80% are accepted. About 95% of the applicants hold a bachelors degree, with 43% majoring in the biological sciences, 20% in other physical sciences, and the remaining being pre-health majors. In 1997, the average GPA was 3.1 and the average MCAT scores for matriculants were 7.1 in Verbal Reasoning, 6.8 in Physical Sciences, and 7.2 in Biological Sciences. Ten percent of entering students have advanced degrees. Most schools welcome visits by prospective students and information on a mentor network is available on the AACPM web site.

Admission requirements

All colleges of podiatric medicine require a laboratory except English. The minimum semester hours in parentheses are: Biology (8), Chemistry, general inorganic (8), Organic Chemistry (8), Physics (8), and English (6). Experience has shown that the majority of successful candidates have had a curriculum that included three or more of the following: Anatomy (such as BMS 307), Physiology (such as BMS 309), Biochemistry (such as BMS 321 or CHM 350), Embryology (such as BMS 582), Histology (such as BMS 585), and Microbiology (such as BIO 310).

Nearly all colleges require the MCAT (Medical College Admissions Test) and must be taken within 3 years prior to matriculation. Applicants are encouraged to take the MCAT in the summer or fall prior to the year of admission. Some of the colleges accept the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Supplemental materials required by the colleges may include: official transcripts of all undergraduate and graduate colleges or universities attended; a composite letter from the pre-medical committee or three letters of evaluation (pre-professional advisor, science faculty, and DPM practitioner). Additional letters of evaluation may be submitted.

Although applications received before April 1 will receive priority consideration, the deadline for the application submission to the AACPM colleges is June 1st for fall admission that same year. Some schools may accept applications and applicants right up to July 31st.

Mentoring and shadowing for students interested in podiatric medicine

Students planning to apply to professional programs in podiatric medicine are strongly encouraged to talk with a number of podiatrists about the profession. Mentoring and shadowing experiences in several practices are recommended for potential applicants. Generally, podiatrists are receptive to requests from students for interviews that can lead to mentoring and shadowing experiences. Students should arrange their own contacts. Dr. Dan D. Park, DPM (Springfield, MO) has been indicated as one local podiatrist who has offered to meet with interested students.

Residencies in podiatric medicine

As in medical schools, most podiatric medical school graduates continue their educations by participating in a podiatric residency program. These programs are at least twelve months in length, except those in Podiatric Surgical Residencies, which are two or three years long. Residency training programs fall into one of four categories: Rotating Podiatric Residency (RPR), Primary Podiatric Medical Residency (PPMR, Podiatric Orthopedic Residency (POR), and Podiatric Surgical Residency (PSR). Podiatric residencies are conducted in accredited teaching hospitals where residents can broaden their skills by rotations including anesthesiology, internal medicine, radiology, general surgery, plastic surgery, orthopedics, emergency room, vascular surgery, and pediatrics. A computerized match system for applicants and residency openings (CASPR) is similar to that in medicine.

Other information sources

The student organization, American Podiatric Medical Students' Association (APMSA) may be of additional interest to applicants.

Links to the seven schools and colleges of podiatric medicine

Barry University School of Graduate Medical Sciences (Miami Shores, FL)

The California School of Podiatric Medicine at Samuel Merritt College (Oakland, CA)

Des Moines University College of Podiatric Medicine and Surgery (Des Moines, IA)

New York College of Podiatric Medicine (New York, NY)

Ohio College of Podiatric Medicine (Cleveland, OH)

Dr. William M. Scholl College of Podiatric Medicine (Chicago, IL)

Temple University School of Podiatric Medicine (Philadelphia, PA)

Literature from most of the above schools is available from your pre-podiatric medicine advisor.

For more information

Dr. Colette Witkowski, 417-836-5603, Professional Bldg., Room 404
Dr. Rich Garrad, 417-836-5372, Professional Bldg., Room 345

Pre-Podiatric Medicine Advisors

Department of Biomedical Sciences
Missouri State University
Springfield, MO 65897