By: Alexandra Brown, Samuel Straus, Avery Thomson, and Emily Lobos
Through our experiences shadowing and working in a clinic as podiatric medical students, we witness the many rewards of podiatry, as well as learn about the challenges facing our profession. An ongoing concern expressed by practicing podiatrists is the lack of parity with our orthopedic surgeon counterparts.
Parity is defined as “the quality or state of being equal or equivalent .” The relationship between orthopedics and podiatry varies among hospitals across the country, in part due to the differences in scope of practice between states, and the professional relationship between the two groups.
There have been setbacks in the journey towards equal rights for podiatric and orthopedic surgeons. An article published as recently as December 2019 discussed the potential effects of an “Emergency Resolution” that was proposed by the American Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Society (AOFAS) . In the article, Dr. DeHeer sheds light on the efforts of a, “relatively small but determined population of orthopedic surgeons who take great pains to systemically subjugate podiatrists and stymie the advancement of podiatry altogether.” This is a powerful statement, and Dr. DeHeer successfully motivates our field to continue to advocate for the advancement of podiatric scope of practice.
One of the core goals of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons (ACFAS) has been to elevate podiatry to the same level of recognition and compensation as other orthopedic surgeons, both in the eyes of the government and the general public
Yes, it is important today that podiatrists be recognized for the extensive medical training and expertise that is required. It is imperative that podiatrists are compensated fairly for performing the same procedures as our orthopedic surgeon counterparts specializing in the foot and ankle. The objective is to remove any barriers that would otherwise deter or prevent podiatrists from seeking additional surgical privileges.
In addition to compensation, it is important that podiatrists are also able to practice to the full extent of their education. Unfortunately, a few states still do not allow podiatrists to practice on the ankle because these surgeons are not considered as competent as their orthopedic colleagues. This is a misunderstanding that hinders the ability of podiatrists to practice to their full capabilities to serve patients. Ultimately, restricting podiatric scope of practice only limits a patient’s access to quality healthcare.
ACFAS has published a document outlining the podiatric scope of practice across the country, organized by state . By highlighting the gaps and variation in scope of practice between states, we can more clearly see the areas of opportunity for advancement. Making this information organized and readily available allows the field of podiatry to focus on health policy efforts and elevate all states to the same scope of practice. It is an ongoing battle, with efforts from ACFAS, other national organizations, and state medical boards.
Increasing the recognition, respect, and understanding of the field of podiatry will attract bright, prospective students. Strong talent benefits the podiatric field in perpetuity
Turning to a relevant example today, the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons is getting creative with how they support podiatry students. In response to the COVID-19 crisis, the College made their many online resources available to all students and residents, regardless of membership status. Open access to the OnDemand education platform provides more opportunities to utilize the podcasts, videos of surgical techniques, clinical sessions, and the medical bookstore. Our TUSPM student chapter serves as a liaison for the College by communicating with students and hosting events on campus, enhancing the students’ education beyond pre-clinical courses.
Looking beyond today, the ongoing efforts to achieve parity have long-standing implications. Increasing the recognition, respect, and understanding of the field of podiatry will attract bright, prospective students. Strong talent benefits the podiatric field in perpetuity. The ACFAS student chapter at Temple University School of Podiatric Medicine (TUSPM) is contributing to the battle for parity by means of research opportunities, workshops, and many other educational resources.
One actionable step towards parity is to increase the representation of podiatry in research as a way to prove the vital role that podiatrists serve. Each year, the ACFAS student chapter at TUSPM supports a team of student researchers as they complete a research project and poster presentation. ACFAS provides the opportunity for these researchers to present their project in poster format at the annual conference, which is displayed and visible to all conference attendees, and later published online and made available to all ACFAS members. This experience not only serves to inspire these students to continue with research, but it also connects them with like-minded colleagues. The ACFAS chapter at TUSPM strongly feels that academic collaboration between degrees and between disciplines is one of the strongest mechanisms for generating “parity”. Rather than voicing to our orthopedic counterparts why we are equal, our field is able to demonstrate our success through hard work and ingenuity.
The ACFAS Annual Scientific Conference also provides lectures and discussion forums for students to have their questions answered by the leadership of the Journal of Foot and Ankle Surgery. This education is invaluable in encouraging and supporting students in their goal of publishing research in a renowned journal. Students’ contribution to research is celebrated at TUSPM, encouraging fellow students to develop an interest and become involved as well. As podiatry is increasingly represented in research, the reputation of the profession will continue to amplify. The Journal of Foot and Ankle Surgery is also an excellent resource for students to reference in preparation for externships, residency, and beyond.
Students benefit from renewing their motivation and passion as they navigate through the stresses of podiatric medical school. Opportunities hosted by ACFAS and the other student organizations provide a means of accomplishing this goal. The ACFAS club hosts several workshops, providing students with hands-on experiences during pre-clinical years of study. These activities motivate students by demonstrating the skills they will eventually master as podiatric surgeons. Anecdotally, these workshops remind students of the “big picture” that they’re working towards professionally.
Students who are engaged are more likely to value the memory of their pre-residency podiatric education and will be further encouraged to draw young, talented people into the field
Early exposure through workshops also helps build confidence, as students are able to re-learn these skills later in the clinical years. Workshops allow 1st and 2nd year students to feel closer to patient care and provide more practice time or specialized skills for 3rd and 4th year students. Workshops hosted by ACFAS include surgical hand-ties, suture techniques, bone-saw, clinical equipment tutorials, and injections. The various lectures and workshops supplement a student’s education, and will likely strengthen the connection that alumni feel towards their alma mater. Students who are engaged are more likely to value the memory of their pre-residency podiatric education and will be further encouraged to draw young, talented people into the field.
By supporting research and advancing students’ podiatric education with lectures, workshops, and resources both on campus and online, ACFAS and its associated student organizations have and will continue to be a major force in achieving parity for our profession.
By: Alexandra Brown, Samuel Straus, Avery Thomson, and Emily Lobos
Student Organization: American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons (ACFAS) – Student Chapter
School: Temple University School of Podiatric Medicine
Progress Towards Parity
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