By Rehan Iqbal
A podiatrist is a medical specialist (aka: doctor of podiatric medicine or podiatric physician) who has trained to assist with ailments of the feet and lower legs. A podiatrist may also work on an ongoing basis with patients experiencing diseases such as diabetes which causes foot and lower leg complications (e.g. slow healing of wounds, lack of sensation). In this article, we explore the many tasks of a podiatrist. Read on to learn more.
Is a Podiatrist Really a Medical Doctor?
A podiatrist is a doctor (licensed and regulated by the government of his or her state) ; however, these specialists do not have exactly the same training as a medical doctor. This is why the suffix of a podiatrist’s name reads DPM (Doctor of Podiatric Medicine) rather than MD (Medical Doctor). Even so, a podiatrist can do many of the same things an MD can do, along with a few things an MD cannot.
Podiatrists coordinate with MDs and other doctors and specialists to provide patient care. Like an MD, a podiatrist can ascertain diagnoses, order X-rays and lab tests. He or she can prescribe drugs. Like some MDs, a podiatrist can set broken bones, and unlike many MDs, he or she can perform specialized surgery.
How Long Does a Podiatrist Have to Go to School?
After high school, a person wishing to become a podiatrist must attend college or university and must study the sciences, such as biology, physics and chemistry. He or she must major in a scientific field, such as biology.
After attaining a bachelor’s degree, the student can move forward to four-year podiatry school. There are nine accredited podiatry schools in the United States of America. The accrediting body is the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA).
At podiatry school, the focus is on learning about the interaction of the muscles, bones and nerves of the feet and ankles. Students learn how these components of the body work together and affect gait and movement. Students at podiatry school also learn about foot injuries, conditions and illnesses that can cause complications.
Podiatry students learn how to diagnose foot ailments, recommend treatment and perform foot surgery as needed.
Upon graduation, students must perform a three year residency in a hospital in order to practice what they have learned in school. During this time, students will work with other providers and specialists so that they can gain knowledge and understanding of a diverse range of medical care, including:
Following a three-year residency, aspiring podiatrists can obtain advanced certification to perform foot and ankle surgery. So, all-in-all, a podiatrist’s education takes a minimum of twelve years after graduating high school.
Why & When Should You See a Podiatrist?
Whenever you are experiencing problems with your feet, ankles and lower legs, it’s a good idea to see a podiatrist. A trained and qualified podiatrist can help you with a vast array of problems ranging from skin conditions of the feet and lower limbs to acute injuries and/or chronic conditions, such as arthritis. Seek the help of a podiatrist if you encounter any of these foot and/or ankle challenges: