What Is Podiatry and Who Is a Podiatrist?Podiatry is a specialty in medicine that deals with the diagnosis and medical and surgical treatment of the diseases, injuries and deformities of the foot and ankle. A doctor who specializes in podiatry is called a podiatrist.
How to Find a PodiatristThere are several places to look. You might start with your primary care physician (PCP) or family doctor. Other resources include family, friends (especially the ones who work in healthcare), coworkers, local hospitals, libraries, yellow pages and of course the internet. The board of podiatry for each state usually has a website that allows you to do a search for a podiatric physician in a particular city. Two other excellent resources are the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) and the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons (ACFAS). Both of these associations have websites that allow you to look up a podiatrist in your area.
Another resource to consider is your insurance company. They should have a list of podiatrists that you can choose from. Depending on what type of plan you have, you may only be able to see certain podiatrists that participate with your insurance plan. If you go out of your insurance network/plan, you may have to pay out of your own pocket for the service. Be sure to check with your insurance company so you will not be surprised with a large bill.
You've Found a Podiatrist. Now What?There are still many important things to learn about and ask your new podiatric physician. Where is their practice located? Is it handicap accessible? What are their office hours? Do those hours work with your schedule? How long does it take to get an appointment? How long for emergency appointments? Do they have x-ray and lab onsite, or will you have to go somewhere else for those services? What hospitals or surgery centers do they have privileges at? Are those the places you would choose if you needed to go to the hospital or have surgery? Who covers for the doctor when she/he is on vacation? If you need surgery, it is important to ask your podiatric surgeon if they are board qualified or board certified and ask how many times they have done the procedure and how often they perform the procedure.
TipsAfter your first visit, there are more questions to ask yourself:
- Did the doctor listen to your questions and treat you with respect?
- Did the doctor take the time to explain your diagnosis and answer your questions?
Just because you have had one appointment with the podiatrist does not mean you have to stay with that doctor if you do not feel comfortable. There needs to be mutual respect and trust between you and your podiatrist.
If you live near a teaching hospital, call the department you wish to make an appointment with and ask if any of the past chief residents have stayed in the area. Chief residents are chosen by teaching faculty and fellow residents and usually have very good clinical and interpersonal skills.
Education and TrainingThe typical education and training for a podiatric physician includes four years of premedical (undergraduate) training at a college or university, followed by four years of podiatric medical school to earn a doctor of podiatric medicine degree (D.P.M.) and then a residency of two to four years for postgraduate education and training.
After residency, some podiatrists may wish to sub-specialize and choose to complete a fellowship. Fellowships are at least one additional year of training in a particular area. Some examples would include sports medicine, research, dermatology, trauma, wound care and diabetes. The extra training is designed to help the physician become an expert in that area.
LicensingPhysicians must meet and verify certain state requirements in order to obtain a license to practice medicine. Each state has their specific set of requirements. You can also find out if there has been any disciplinary action taken against a podiatric physician by calling the board of podiatry in a particular state or by going to their website.
There are specialty boards that certify physicians. For example, some podiatrists choose to perform surgery, so they may wish to become certified by the American Board of Podiatric Surgery (ABPS). There are other specialty boards that offer certification as well. Usually a physician must meet certain requirements, pass a written exam and then board-eligible/qualified status may be granted. The next step is to become board-certified. Once the physician has enough cases and meets more requirements and passes another written exam plus an oral exam, then they may become board-certified. A doctor just finishing residency or fellowship will most likely only be board-eligible/qualified because they do not have enough cases to be board-certified. Becoming board-certified takes time, usually years. The important thing is that the doctor is on a path to become board-certified.