What Types of Things Does the Field of Podiatric Medicine and Surgery Need to Improve on in the Future?

Podiatric medicine is a wonderful profession. It allows physicians the opportunity to directly impact the quality of their patients’ lives through various modalities, including surgery! Although being able to perform surgery is an exciting and rewarding aspect of this profession, podiatric medicine and is not without need for improvement. Being trained in the latest and greatest techniques and procedures involving the lower extremity through a mandatory three-year surgical residency has undoubtedly been a step in the right direction for this profession. However, additional hurdles still remain to be conquered in order to fully reach the profession’s potential.

While podiatric medicine is essentially a blend of a multiple specialties…

While podiatric medicine is essentially a blend of a multiple specialties (Orthopedics, Dermatology, Neurology, Sports Medicine, Pediatrics, etc) focused on the lower extremity, what truly sets this profession apart is its emphasis and expertise in lower extremity biomechanics. Our profession as a whole, from recruiting to schooling to residency training, should take pride in this aspect of the profession and excel in its application to enhance patient care. Often neglected and overlooked by students and practitioners alike, working towards acquiring expert knowledge in this aspect of podiatric medicine can really help understand the etiologies of various patient queries regarding their conditions.

           Additionally, in order to be considered the premier medical authority in foot and ankle medicine and surgery, steps should to be taken for hospitals to allow more podiatrists and podiatric residency programs to cover the foot and ankle ER trauma call at their programs. While not an absolute necessity, certain residency programs feature these opportunities, while consistently producing some of the most skilled surgeons in the country. Oftentimes, podiatrists and podiatric residency programs struggle to obtain the privilege of taking ER trauma call due to the prior establishment of orthopedics covering this service. If the profession can effectively demonstrate excellence in treating traumatic foot and ankle conditions, it is only a matter of time before more hospitals would open up opportunities for podiatrists to cover this service. Although orthopedics are accustomed to the volume of cases foot and ankle trauma brings to their service, negotiating a compromise to at least share foot and ankle trauma call at hospitals would lead to developing podiatric surgeons of higher quality and capabilities, ultimately leading to enhanced patient care. This would allow orthopedics to still share foot and ankle trauma call and treat all poly-trauma as well. While this is easier said than done with many hurdles to overcome, every effort should be made to advance the training of our profession to reach our ultimate potential.

A shockingly large number of undergraduate pre-health profession students still are unaware of what this profession entails.

           Being such a unique and worthwhile profession, podiatric medicine and surgery suffer from an application and recruitment crisis that has been worsening in recent years. Comparing applicant and matriculation statistics from recent years, less and less qualified applicants have been seeking admission into podiatric medical schools despite the opportunity this profession provides. Various factors have contributed to the shortage including decreasing matriculation statistics of osteopathic schools, newer osteopathic schools opening recently, and the general apprehension towards the medical profession as a lucrative career moving forward. That being said, podiatric medicine and surgery have done a poor job highlighting the profession and making this career path more visible to prospective applicants at the high school, undergraduate, and postgraduate levels. A shockingly large number of undergraduate pre-health profession students still are unaware of what this profession entails or the fact that schooling is separate from mainstream medical school. It is incumbent for the future of this profession for students, residents, and practicing podiatrists to do their part in promoting this profession. Utilizing social media, volunteering, personal outreach, increasing shadowing opportunities, and other avenues to attract more qualified applicants to this promising medical specialty will be critical to the survival and improvement of this profession.

By: Rafay Qureshi

Temple University School of Podiatric Medicine

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