A gem of a profession!

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

During my sophomore year of undergraduate school at Elizabethtown College, I envisioned myself attending an allopathic medical program. I knew nothing about podiatry other than it involved feet, and my Health Professions Advisory Board offered no information about it as a potential medical career. Over winter break, I was fortunate enough to participate in a medical mission trip to Honduras. While there, we entered a hospital ward filled with individuals suffering from lower extremity diabetic, venous, and arterial ulcers and amputations. I had never experienced anything like that in my life before, and it had a large impact on me. Upon returning to campus, I started researching the wounds I had seen, and soon enough, podiatric medicine became a major career possibility for me. 

Podiatric medicine is a gem of a medical profession. In one day, a podiatrist can perform surgery, treat diabetic ulcers, evaluate arterial and venous wounds, construct custom molded orthoses to biomechanically enhance the patient’s gait, or even work with athletes to help them return to their sports and activities. It also offers flexibility in how a podiatrist can practice. Some individuals focus primarily on surgery, trauma, and reconstruction of the foot and ankle, while others focus on conservative biomechanical approaches using orthotics or offsetting pressures to prevent wound development. Because the field has variability, there are many ways to impact patients’ lives. This is easily expressed by their smiles and gratitude as they leave the office with reduced pain, higher self-esteem, and a better quality of life. 

Podiatric medicine is a gem of a medical profession.

For anyone considering a career in podiatric medicine, I would highly recommend finding a podiatrist in their local community to shadow. This is by far the most effective way to see the ins and outs of the profession, the possibilities for treatments and pathologies, and the direct impact on patients’ lives. I would recommend watching surgeries to see if the surgical field is a good fit, and give oneself a holistic appreciation of the field by shadowing different podiatrists in different types of practices such as private practice, group practices, orthopedic groups, or even a hospital setting. Another great opportunity available at several podiatry schools is to take part in an internship program. I was able to attend the Winter Internship Program at TUSPM where I shadowed different podiatrists in the surrounding area and took part in academic lectures and hands on workshops. This experience was the selling point for me, and after I attended this program, I knew I wanted to enter the field of podiatric medicine.  

In preparation for applying to podiatry school, I would highly recommend students challenge themselves with courses that will give them a greater appreciation and understanding of the basic and anatomical sciences. Knowledge of anatomy, biochemistry, physiology, and microbiology and immunology are very important to not only one’s success in their medical education, but also to the well-being of their future patients. While a podiatrist’s scope of practice is limited to the lower extremity, one must understand how the body’s complex organ systems function together as a unit. This is very important as podiatrists are many times the first medical professionals who identify cardiovascular, endocrine, or neurological systemic diseases. This understanding is important for developing effective multi-specialty care. In addition to coursework, I would highly recommend getting involved in the medical field through volunteering at a local hospital or practice, being hired as a medical scribe, EMT, or CNA, or participating in research activities. These experiences will increase one’s ability to acclimate to the medical field and will provide great resources throughout one’s medical education. 

Overall, I think podiatry is an amazing field with a plethora of opportunities for those who pursue it. There is not a podiatrist I know who wishes they could have done it differently, and that is a great testament to the field as a whole. It is a small profession which is still gaining reputation; however, the impact it leaves on its patients and the lives of those who practice it is priceless. I know still early on in my medical education that I made the correct decision to enter podiatric medicine, and I hope by sharing my experiences, I can introduce it to many others who might not have even known it was an option.

Aaron Rathsam

Temple University School of Podiatric Medicine, 2022