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What is a Podiatrist?

Podiatrists specialize in medical care of the foot, ankle, and lower leg. They must have a doctor of podiatric medicine (D.P.M.) degree from a college of podiatric medicine. Podiatrists are sometimes referred to as foot doctors, foot and ankle surgeons, or podiatric surgeons. They must pass written and oral board examinations and must obtain a state license to practice podiatric medicine.

Podiatrists work in private practices, hospitals, and clinics, and may become professors at colleges of podiatric medicine, department chiefs, and hospital administrators.

Educational Requirements

Admission to a college of podiatric medicine requires completion of at least 90 semester hours of undergraduate study, an acceptable grade point average, and acceptable scores on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). Required courses include biology, chemistry (inorganic and organic), and physics. Prospective students are also evaluated on the basis of letters of recommendation, interviews, and extracurricular activities.

Colleges of podiatric medicine offer 4-year programs similar to other medical schools. During the first 2 years, students take courses in anatomy, chemistry, pathology, and pharmacology. Third- and fourth-year students perform clinical rotations in private practices, hospitals, and clinics. During clinical rotations students take patient histories, perform physical examinations, interpret diagnostic tests, make diagnoses, and provide treatment. Graduates receive a doctor of podiatric medicine (D.P.M.) degree.

Each state has its own licensing requirements, and many grant reciprocity to podiatrists licensed in other states. In most cases, an applicant must be a graduate of an accredited college of podiatric medicine and must pass written and oral examinations.

Most states require completion of a 1- to 3-year postdoctoral residency program and continuing medical education (CME) for license renewal. Residents receive advanced training in podiatric medicine and surgery and perform clinical rotations in the following:

  • Anesthesiology
  • Emergency medicine
  • Internal medicine
  • Orthopedic and general surgery
  • Pathology
  • Radiology

Certification Requirements

Board certification in podiatry requires advanced training, written and oral examinations, and practice experience. Podiatrists may be board-certified in orthopedics, primary medicine, or surgery.

Certification by the American Board of Podiatric Surgery requires graduation form podiatric medical school; completion of an approved podiatric surgical residency; practice experience, including surgical case submissions; and written and oral examinations.

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