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Is a Podiatrist a Doctor?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A podiatrist is a doctor with medical school education in diagnosing and treating problems of the foot, ankle, and lower leg. Licensing qualifications vary in by location, but in addition to having a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM) degree, this person is often expected to have had a two year postdoctoral residency. In the US, continuing education is usually necessary for a podiatrist to meet state license renewal requirements.

Podiatric specialists in primary care, orthopedics, and podiatric surgery should be board certified. Although board certification is not an indicator of a doctor's exact skill level, certification does ensure that the medical professional has passed all exams and completed the required residency period. A primary care podiatrist works in a family practice environment, while one in orthopedics prescribes supportive devices for the foot, ankle, and lower leg. Podiatric surgeons perform surgery on the foot, ankle, and lower leg, such as reconstructive surgery in an arthritic patient to lessen pain and improve mobility.

Entrance into a college of podiatric medicine usually requires an undergraduate degree. An acceptable score on a medical school admission exam such as the Medical College Admissions Test® (MCAT®) is also needed. The seven accredited podiatric schools in the United States are located in California, Florida, Iowa, Illinois, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

The curriculum covered in the first two years at a college of podiatric medicine is comparable to many other medical schools. Core classes include general sciences such as anatomy, chemistry, pharmacology, and pathology. Clinical rotations take up most of the third and fourth years, and they provide training in taking podiatric histories, performing examinations, interpreting test results, and making correct diagnoses.

Doctors who care for the feet often address issues like diabetic foot problems and blisters. Diabetes can cause nerve damage, called peripheral neuropathy, which numbs the feet. Regular professional medical care is necessary as diabetic patients with nerve damage may not feel pain or other indications of injury or infection in the foot. Blisters are created by friction, and broken blisters are an entryway for bacteria, so antibiotic cream should be used to prevent infection. Moleskin bandage pads on tender spots as well as wearing heavy socks usually works well in preventing blisters on the soles of feet.

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Discussion Comments
By anon1005729 — On Nov 04, 2021

If Podiatry school is not medical school, then why do they call it: Podiatric Medical School? Thirty years ago, the MDs were saying the DOs weren't physicians. Their school is called Osteopathic Medical School. At this point in time, they are considered Medical Drs. I think it is more of a discriminatory thing, just as the DOs were discriminated against by the MDs 30 years ago.

By anon306576 — On Nov 30, 2012

Thank you for the information. I think I need to find a podiatrist in Fort Worth, Texas to shadow because it sounds like a great career. I can't believe there are only seven accredited schools, though.

By anon206186 — On Aug 15, 2011

Correction to last comment: Podiatrists go to Podiatric Medical School. This is a type of medical school, but it is not an MD granting medical school. The term "medical doctor" is not solely related to MD degrees. For example: see "Doctor of Medicine (MD), from the Latin Medicinae Doctor meaning "Teacher of Medicine"). "(Wikipedia 2011)

The term medical doctor is an ambiguous word encompassing MD and DO physicians with full practice rights in the US. A DPM (doctor of pod med) is arguably another type of limited specialist, practicing specialized medicine.

Point is: they attend a Podiatric medical school, and are arguable a type of medical doctor. Legal paperwork has them sign under "referring medical doctor," for example. Legally, they are medical doctors with a limited scope.

I hope this clarifies the matter somewhat. For the record, I am a third year medical student and have rubbed shoulders with some pod med students in my experience.

By anon171333 — On Apr 29, 2011

"A podiatrist is a doctor with medical school preparation in diagnosing and treating the foot, ankle, and lower leg."

A podiatrist does not go to medical school, but Podiatry school. Podiatrists are not M.D's (Medical Doctors).

By Comparables — On Aug 03, 2010

@ Anon37350- If you are opting to have surgery, you should get a referral from your local podiatrist. They may be a podiatric surgeon themselves, but if they are not, they will be able to recommend a board certified podiatric surgeon. The procedure is fairly routine, so you should not worry too much. If you have exhausted all therapy options, then surgery may be your best bet for alleviating the pain.

By Georgesplane — On Aug 03, 2010

@ Anon37350- Hammer toe surgery is a common surgery with little risk as far as surgery goes. There are three types of surgery used most often to relieve the pain and re-align the toe in those afflicted with the ailment.

The first option is to remove the lower tendon and move it to the top of the toe, effectively pulling the toe down. This surgery essentially releases the tendon that is causing the deformity.

If the toe is not mobile, then the other options are digital anthroplasty, or athrodesis. These options involve removing or moving bones in the toe. Hammertoe is a common ailment that podiatrists see all of the time. They are qualified to advise their patients on surgery, but if you are ever unsure about a medical diagnosis, it does not hurt to get a second opinion.

By anon37350 — On Jul 18, 2009

How do I know my Dr. is qualified to have surgery on my Hammer Toe and really fix it??

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