are approximately 14,000 practicing doctors of podiatric
medicine in the United States. The skills of these physicians
are in increasing demand because foot disorders are among
the most widespread and neglected health problems affecting
people in this country.
estimated 75 percent of Americans will experience foot problems
of varying degrees of seriousness at one time in their lives.
As more Americans engage in exercise and fitness programs,
more of them become aware of the limits foot and ankle pain
places on full participation. Since foot and ankle problems
are often the result of a lifetime of neglect, and the number
of older Americans is increasing almost three times as fast
as the population as a whole, they may account for a disproportionate
share of the growing demand.
of the Podiatric Physician
are seven colleges of Podiatric Medicine: Barry University
School of Graduate Medical Sciences, California College of
Podiatric Medicine, Des Moines University College of Podiatric
Medicine and Surgery, Dr. William M. Scholl College of Podiatric
Medicine, New York College of Podiatric Medicine, Ohio College
of Podiatric Medicine, and Temple University School of Podiatric
all receive accreditation from the Council on Podiatric
Medical Education, which is recognized by the US Secretary
of Education and the Council on Higher Education: they grant
the degree of doctor of podiatric medicine (DPM).
for admission to all seven colleges are expected to complete
baccalaureate degrees before admission. As with institutions
granting MD (medical doctor) and DO (doctor of osteopathy)
degrees, the colleges will consider candidates who show unusual
promise andhave completed a mininum of 90 semester hours at
accredited undergraduate colleges or universities. About 95%
of all first-year students enter the colleges of podiatric
medicine possess baccalaureate degrees, and about 10% have
for admission are required to complete the Medical College
Admission Test (MCAT) as a prerequisite, although some of
the college accept the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) as
course of instruction leading the DPM degree is four years
in length. The first two years are devoted largely to clasroom
instruction and laboratory work in the basic medical sciences
such as anatomy, physiology, microbiology, biochemistry, pharmacology,
and pathology. During the third and fourth years, students
concerntrate on the courses in the clinical sciences, gainign
experience in the college clinics, community clinics, and
accredited hospitals. Clinical courses include general diagnosis
(history taking, physical examination, clinical laboratory
procedures, and diagnostic radiology), therapeutics (pharmacology,
physical medicine, orthotics, and prosthetics), surgery, anesthesia,
and operative podiatric medicine.
completing the four-year course and receiving the DPM degree,
the graduate is eligible to take a state board examination
to obtain a license to practice in about one-third of the
states; two-thirds require an additional year of postdoctoral
work before licensure.
they near graduation, most prospective podiatric physicians
seek postdoctoral residency programs. These programs, designed
to strengthen and refine the practitioner's prodiatric medical
primary care, orthopedic and/or surgical skills, are based
in hospitals accredited by the Joint Commission on the Accreditation
of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) and the American Osteopathic
Association. The programs are at least one year in duration,
and may extend to three years.
all states impose some continuing podiatric medical education
requirements for license renewal, and there is good attendence
at many educational programs and seminars developed and presented
each year by the colleges and local, state, and national podiatric
physicians are licensed in all 50 states, the District of
Columbia, and Puerto Rico to treat the foot and its related
or governing structures by medical, surgical, or other means.
The vast majority of states also include ankle care as part
of the podiatric physician's scope of practice. In addition
to private offices, podiatric physicians serve on the staffs
of hospitals and long-term care facilities, on the faculties
of schools of medicine and nursing, as commissioned officers
in the Armed Forces and US Public Health Service, in the
Department of Veterans Affairs, and in municipal health
departments. Many podiatrists today are also members of
group medical practices.
Areas of Practice
its continuing efforts to protect and improve public health
and welfare, CPME has recognized and approved two specialty
boards that certify in three areas:
boards confer certification on a podiatric physician who has
satisfactorily passed written and oral examinations and has
demonstrated knowledge and experience in his or her chosen
boards are the American Board of Podiatric Orthopedics and
Primary Podiatric Medicine, in Chicago, and the American Board
of Podiatric Surgery, in San Francisco.
are also podiatrists who are board certified in public health,
through a certifying board that ceased to exist in 1994.
all private and public health insurance plans provide coverage
for the services of doctors of podiatric medicine. Even though
third-party coverage of podiatrists' services generally includes
the medical and surgical care of foot complaints, details
of such coverage can and do vary among plans. The same applies
to federal health insurance plans, including Medicare, federal
employee health benefits, and federal employee compensation
programs. Medicaid, however, is an exception to this general
rule; it is prescribed in federal law as an option rather
than a mandated service and is determined on a state-by-state
with the podiatrist's education and licensure, JCAHO, the
American Medical Association, and other organizations recognize
the right of qualified podiatric physicians to serve on the
staffs of hospitals and other health care facilities. According
to a 1998 surve of hospitals, an overwhelming majority of
them (80.6 percent) had podiatric physicians as part of their
is a strong and growing role for podiatrists in public health.
There has been a podiatric health section in the American
Public Health Association (APHA) for nearly two decades, and
APHA has a policy statement which represents minimum professional
standards for public health units which have foot health programs.
growth in numbers among podiatrists in the federal service
has been most impressive since two occurrences in the 1970s.
First, the Veterans Omnibus Health Care Act of 1976 launched
an expanded VA podiatric medical program. By granting VA podiatrists
Department of Medicine and Surgery classification and compensation
benefits, the new law strengthened the VA's foot health services.