What is a Podiatrist?
A Podiatrist is a medical specialist of the foot, ankle and lower leg. A podiatrist holds a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (D.P.M.) degree.
To receive this four year degree, an individual must attend one of seven podiatric medical schools in the United States. To be accepted, the applicant must have successfully of complete a four year bachelor of science program (preferably pre-med). These schools offer the curriculum similar to those at allopathic schools where graduates earn medical degrees to become a medical doctor (M.D.).
Podiatric medicine students must pass two national board exams to graduate. After graduation, students continue their education in residency programs at leading hospitals. Depending on the type of podiatric medicine they choose to pursue, students spend from 1-4 years in a residency program. Most common are 2-year residencies that provide the podiatrist with thorough training in multiple types of procedures and surgeries of the foot, ankle and lower leg.
To become a podiatrist, students must demonstate excellence in orthopedics, radiography, sports medicine, dermatology, and surgery. They are often the first health professionals to diagnose vasular problems. Podiatrists also contribute significantly to diabetic foot care and wound healting. Individual states regulate what part of the body podiatrists can work on. All allow podiatrist to work on the foot. Most allow them to work on the ankle and mid-calf. Some states allow podiatrist to work on the entire leg.
Many patients seen by the podiatrist are referred by family practice physicians and other specialists who wish to have their patients treated by a doctor trained specifically in foot, ankle and leg disorders. In addition to surgical training, podiatrists have extensive training in the non-surgical treatment of foot, ankle and leg problems. There is no other specialty that has as extensive training in these areas as the podiatrist.