Is Podiatry Right for You?

Stephanie Tine
Class of 2019
California School of Podiatric Medicine, Samuel Merritt University

Are you sure about going into medicine?

headshot S. TineMy first piece of advice to anyone thinking about joining the medical field is to go out and shadow health care providers. You should be exploring all areas of medicine. The 4 doctoral degrees you should examine are medical (MD), osteopathic (DO), dental (DMD/DDS), and Podiatric (DPM). I encourage you to go shadow local doctors in your area because it’s very important to get a good sense of what your future career will entail. Before your first meeting with the doctor write down questions you have. Ask them about their experiences in each of the stages of becoming a doctor, what their medical school experience was like, how they decided on choosing their specific specialty, what the residency program entailed, and what their lifestyle is like now being an established doctor. You want to find a career that fits your personality, goals, passions and desired lifestyle. The only way to truly know if you will enjoy the profession is by spending at least a few days in the life of those doctors, the more time the better. The American Association of College of Podiatric Medicine (AACPM) offers a great list of podiatric physician mentors that will be glad to let you shadow them. is also a great website that has insightful tips about how to best prepare yourself as a pre-podiatry student. The website also has a lot of valuable information for pre-podiatry students in their forums. Keep in mind that these the student doctor network forums, so beware of misinformation. But for general questions and concerns related to podiatry, it’s a great first step.

Shadow, volunteer, repeat!

My path to discovering podiatry began like many other pre-med students. I began volunteering at hospitals in high school and became enamored with the medical profession. I knew it was right for me because every time I walked into the hospital I became excited and couldn’t wait to get started. The first time I volunteered in a trauma unit and saw the amazing job the staff did saving lives, I wanted to burst with joy and join in the action. Although I’m only a first-year podiatric medical student, I still am elated when I get to interact with patients.

In my senior year of college, I took the MCAT and began researching potential MD, DO school. When I was very young, my best friend’s mother was a podiatrist and I loved when she would bring home gruesome pictures of cases she had worked on, but when I began applying to medical schools I had completely forgotten about the world of podiatry. My problem was I had a singular focus: get into an MD program. But after talking to my pre-health advisor, she mentioned I look into podiatry as a great alternative. I immediately went home and spent the next week getting my hands on anything podiatry related. I set up a shadowing opportunity with a local podiatrist who was an alum of my university. The first time I shadowed the podiatrist I knew that podiatry was right for me. After this encounter, I decided to set up a tour of a podiatry school that was a couple hour’s drive from where I lived. They allowed me to shadow students in the clinic which were a great opportunity to pick their brain about the ins and outs of podiatry. I highly recommend you try and do this too. It is great to see what your future for the next 4 years will be like as well as to ask students questions that only they can answer. Most schools are glad to open their arms to potential students.

Why did I choose podiatry?

Not only is podiatry great for people who value a lifestyle more friendly to having a family, it also allows you to work with a diverse population. Don’t get me wrong, podiatry is by no means any easier than MD or DO school, but it does allow you to, after completing residency, decide how involved you want to be. For example, you can still have 80 hour work weeks if you so choose, and you can still do on-call trauma work, but you aren’t necessarily obligated. You can specialize in a variety of fields within podiatry such as diabetic management, wound care, surgery, sports medicine, biomechanics, geriatrics, dermatology and pediatrics. To many, including me, podiatry provides the ability to become an expert in a critical region of the body as well as apply your expertise to the effects on the entire system. Podiatrists are often the first to discover systemic disease due to the first manifestations that occur in the lower extremities. In other words, podiatrists can sometimes be the frontline defense for many patients with potentially debilitating conditions.

Lastly, the profession is small. According to the AACPM there are approximately 15,000 active podiatric physicians in the United States. Therefore, there are ample opportunities for job placement following residency that will only increase as the population ages and the growing number of obese and diabetic patients increases. I highly recommend that you look into the exceptional benefits that accompany becoming a podiatrist, you won’t regret it!

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