Guide to a Podiatrist

January 15, 2014

Article by Global Pre-Meds
Hospital doctor shadowing & global health experience programs.

See current opportunities

Podiatry is a branch of medicine devoted to the study of human movement, with the primary focus on the medical care of the foot and ankle. A Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM), also known as a Podiatrist, is a specialist who has undergone extensive study and training in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of foot injuries, disorders and diseases. Podiatrists are uniquely qualified to administer necessary medications, prescribe physical therapy regimens and perform surgery of the foot and ankle. 

DPMs often detect serious health problems that may otherwise go undetected. This is because several diseases including kidney disease, diabetes, heart disease and arthritis, first manifest themselves through symptoms of the lower extremities.  Podiatric physicians are highly skilled in state-of-the-art techniques involving orthopaedics, physical medicine, surgery, rehabilitation and dermatology.

Entertaining in the paediatrics department! Working Conditions

DPMs usually work in general or group practices. Some professionals develop a practice focus such as sports medicine, paediatrics or geriatrics. In addition to private practice, they also serve on the staffs of hospitals and long-term care facilities, in Public Health Service, on the faculties of schools of medicine and nursing, in municipal health departments and in the armed forces. Other possible career settings include foot clinics associated with hospitals in major urban areas or small rural towns among others.

The work hours of a podiatric physician working in a hospital can vary from 30 to 60 hours a week. In general, podiatrists work flexible hours with podiatrists in private practice having the additional flexibility to set their own hours.

Academic Requirements

The degree of Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (D.P.M.) is awarded after four years of study at an accredited podiatric medical college. Irrespective of the size or location of the institution, the curriculum leading to the D.P.M. degree is similar at all podiatric medical colleges. 

The first two years of the program focus on classroom instruction and lab work in the basic medical sciences. Clinical sciences and hands-on patient care are covered during the third and fourth years of study.

As is the case for all physicians, podiatric medical students learn anatomy, pathology, immunology, physiology, microbiology, biochemistry and pharmacology. In addition, the podiatry coursework includes the fundamentals of specialized medicine including lower extremity anatomy, biomechanics, orthopaedics, podiatric pathology, sports medicine and infectious diseases.

Clinical exposure begins as early as the second year. Podiatric medicine students gain practical experience by working in podiatric clinics in diverse settings, which could include hospitals, community or satellite clinics or professional office settings.

Graduates select a Podiatric Medicine and Surgery Residency after completing four years of podiatric medical training,. The duration of the residency ranges from 24 to 36 months during which time residents receive an interdisciplinary experience with rotations in orthopaedics, anaesthesiology, paediatrics, internal medicine, surgery, ER and infectious disease. The 36-month residency includes extensive training in rear foot and ankle surgery.

Podiatrist salary in Australia

Podiatrists in Australia receive an annual salary ranging from between AUD 45,943 at the lower end to AUD 82,591 at the higher end.