A podiatrist, also known as a podiatric physician (/poʊˈdaɪətrɪst/ poh-dye-eh-trist) or foot and ankle surgeon, is a medical professional devoted to the study and medical/surgical treatment of disorders of the foot, ankle and lower extremity. The term originated in North America, but has now become the accepted term in the English-speaking world for all practitioners of podiatric medicine.
In the United States, Doctors of Podiatric Medicine (DPM) are doctors who practice on the lower extremities, primarily on feet and ankles. The preparatory education of most podiatrists includes four years of undergraduate work, followed by four years in an accredited podiatric medical school, followed by a three or four-year hospital-based surgical residency. Podiatrists are licensed in all 50 states, but each state has their own licensing requirements. The scope of practice may vary from state to state and residency training.
Worldwide, in many countries the term podiatrist refers to allied health professionals who specialize in the treatment of the lower extremity, particularly the foot. Podiatrists in these countries are specialists in the diagnosis and treatment of foot pathology, but not through surgical means. In some circumstances these practitioners will further specialise and, following further training, perform reconstructive foot and ankle surgery.
In contrast, American podiatrists who hold a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (D.P.M.) complete surgical residencies, and thus all practitioners are trained in surgical treatments of the foot and ankle. Though the title chiropodist was previously used in the United States to designate what is now known as a podiatrist, it is now considered to be an antiquated and etymologically incorrect term. The median annual Podiatry salary is approximately $195,000 as of August, 2018, with a wide range depending on years in practice. New Podiatrists right out of residency usually earn significantly less. First year salaries of $120,000-$180,0000 with performance/productivity incentives are common. Private practice revenue for solo Podiatrists also varies widely with the majority of solo practices grossing between $200,000-$600,000 before overhead.
Podiatrists treat a wide variety of foot and lower extremity conditions, through nonsurgical and surgical approaches. The American Board of Podiatric Medicine (ABPM) offers a comprehensive board qualification and certification process in podiatric medicine and orthopedics. Podiatric Medicine and Orthopedics is the medical specialty concerned with the comprehensive and continuous foot health care of patients. There are those podiatric physicians who also specialize (i.e., specialists) in such fields of practice of podiatric medical specialties as:
In Australia, there is now an option to be a podiatric assistant. The qualification is a Certificate IV in Allied Health Assistance specialising in podiatry. They work as a part of a podiatric medical team in a variety of clinical and non clinical settings. There are currently developing strategies to further utilise these skilled workers. Worldwide, there are common professional accreditation pathways to becoming a podiatric assistant. There are many fields such as:
Podiatric surgery is a specialist field in the podiatry profession in most western countries, including Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom. Podiatric surgery is defined as “the surgical treatment of conditions affecting the foot, ankle and related lower extremity structures by accredited and qualified specialist podiatrists”. Podiatric surgeons are concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the foot and ankle. Podiatric surgeons are qualified to care for bone, joint, ligament, muscle and tendon pathology of the foot and ankle, such as:
Podiatrists' roles include dealing with the conditions resulting from bone and joint disorders such as arthritis and soft-tissue and muscular pathologies as well as neurological and circulatory diseases. Podiatrists are also able to diagnose and treat any complications of the above which affect the lower limb, including skin and nail disorders, corns, calluses and ingrown toenails. Foot injuries and infections gained through sport or other activities are also diagnosed and treated by podiatrists.