Friday, April 10, 2009

What the heck is a Podiatrist?!?

Over the past three years I've reached a startling conclusion:

Most people (>90%) have no clue what a podiatrist is, what one does, or how one is educated. Shocking, I know. I have been aided in reaching this conclusion by the questions and comments I get from friends and associates, such as:

“Oh Pediatrics! Working with kids will be cool!”
“A Pedicurist? I love getting pedicures!”
“So is that a two-year or a three-year program?”
“Will you be doing any surgery?”
“Now you guys don't have to do a residency, right?”
"Is a podiatrist”
“So like besides athelete's what else do ya'll treat?”
“What is a foot?”

Ok so I haven't gotten that last one yet. But all the others are common. For that reason I've decided to summarize some key points about the field for everyone who wants to know. If you'll join me for a short journey, together we'll proceed to enlighten minds, abolish falsehoods, and eradicate misconceptions. Ready? Let's go!

What is a podiatrist?
A podiatrist is a surgically-trained physician that specializes in treating problems of the foot, ankle, and lower leg. Phew, that was easy.

How does one become a podiatrist?
The education process is strikingly similar to that for other types of doctors....we go to medical school. Now since most people don't know how medical school works, that's another hurdle. Medical school lasts four years, the first two of which are classroom and test oriented, with the second two being clinical (i.e. rotations). Everyone who goes to medical school then does a “residency” to complete their training. “Podiatric medical students” do “podiatric surgical residencies”, which usually last three years though some are only two, and the bulk of time is spent in foot and ankle surgery.

Here's a year-by-year breakdown of the Path to Podiatry:

Year 1: Classes-- Anatomy, Histology, Physiology, Biochemistry, Immunology, and more
Year 2: Classes-- Pathology, Pharmacology, Microbiology, general medicine, and others
Year 3: Rotations. 3 months of podiatry; also neurology, dermatology, radiology,
endocrinology, rheumatology, wound care, family practice, and 1 or 2 electives.
Year 4: Rotations. One month each of general surgery, emergency medicine, and inpatient
medicine. Seven months of podiatry including various month-long audition rotations (aka clerkships or externships) at sites that have podiatric surgical residencies. One elective.
Year 5: 1st year of surgical residency. Lots of surgery, some clinic time.
Year 6: 2nd year of surgical residency. Same idea.
Year 7: 3rd year of surgical residency.

What makes it totally sweet?
  • We take the same classes as other medical students, plus some that they don't take, but our tuition is actually a lot lower!
  • We go to school in paradises such as Arizona or Florida.
  • With only a three-year residency, it's the fastest way to become a surgeon!
  • It's got good earnings and is in high demand.
  • It has a very family-friendly work schedule.
  • The specialty is diverse. Despite being limited to the foot and lower leg, we treat all sorts of pathologies—skin problems, bone infections, nerve pains, circulatory disease, muscle and tendon disorders, arthritis, diabetic and other ulcers, gait abnormalities, bunions, and on and on. We're like ten specialties in one!
  • The career is versatile: You can start your own practice, work in somebody else's, work for a hospital....or not work at all! :D Just kidding.
  • Speaking of versatility and diversity, as a podiatrist you can also choose an area of emphasis if you desire. For example, some have primarily surgical practices and others don't do any surgery.
  • And best of all, podiatrists are so cool that there's not even a word for them in Spanish! They couldn't think of one that was good enough.
What more could you want? I mean other than a box of fresh donuts...

Now if after carefully reading this blog your questions remain unresolved, please come talk to me. Just this time don't ask, "Aren't you excited to work with kids??"


  1. You forgot to address what is likely to be the most pressing question of all.

    Why would someone decide to become a podiatrist?

    Oh and, what do you have against kids?

  2. Ben, Once again your blog is a work of art. Maybe you should give up podiatry and become a professional blogger.

  3. Awesome, once I get married and have kids I'll bring them to you ;)

    No but really, thanks for the informative post I learned a lot!