Advice to undergrads

Why podiatry? What advice would you give an undergraduate student interested in this profession?

Dedicating your life to helping others is not for everybody. It requires long hours, a great deal of school, and a lifetime commitment to an ethical code known as the Hippocratic Oath. For those who do decide to embark on the journey of becoming a medical professional, I have no hesitation in suggesting a career in podiatry. As a Canadian, the only opportunity we have to become doctors is through the few allopathic medical schools in Canada. These schools are renowned but are not specialized. This means the mass amount of information students must learn in 3-4 years is immense and the competition to gain acceptance into these schools can take years. Personally, I prefered branching out and starting an adventure somewhere new, in a school that immediately starts off specialized. In a podiatric medical school, you study to become a surgeon from the very first day. This means I am able to gain hands-on experience much earlier on through labs and clinicals whilst studying specialized lower extremity anatomy in lectures.

My advice would be to shadow a podiatrist for some time, to determine if Podiatry is the right field for you. Whether you are Canadian like me and do not have much exposure to the podiatric profession or whether you have family and friends in the profession, make sure you volunteer to shadow a podiatrist. No matter how much advice you receive or how many questions you ask, nothing compares to the experience of seeing the job up close for some time. This way you are able to see both the patient interactions during rotations and consults as well as the variety of surgeries that podiatrists perform. This will ultimately give you a feel for the job and enable you to envision yourself doing what a podiatrist typically does. During my own shadowing experience, I have been able to increase my understanding of foot and ankle injuries and was surprised to find how often they link to diseases that affect the whole body. I have seen first-hand that they often have a debilitating effect on the patient’s life, and so the time I spent contributing to their healthcare experience was rewarding.

You may not realize it now but becoming a physician means you need to be adaptable to any situation and ready to take on any challenge. By joining clubs and activities and even going on volunteer trips you will be able to interact with many different cultures, people, and ideas that will challenge the way you think. In the podiatric profession, you will gain so much exposure to different patients, and by always meeting new people and putting yourself into new situations you will be that much better prepared for talking to and understanding patients. Moreso, the journey to becoming a podiatrist takes time and a lot of hard-work so make sure you enjoy your undergraduate experience and time with family and friends along the way. Personally, I ensured I was busy with numerous clubs at my University, volunteered at the local Children’s Hospital, and spent a lot of time on the weekend hiking with family and friends. This has enabled me to really diversify my thinking and motivates me to continue challenging myself throughout my podiatric degree.

Payal Sethi

California School of Podiatric Medicine