Chiropodists, also known as podiatrists, are medical doctors that specialize in the foot, ankle and lower leg — in laymen’s terms, a foot doctor. While podiatrist is a more common term in North America, chiropodist is used more often in the United Kingdom. The terms refer to the same thing. Chiropodists see patients of all ages, from children to the elderly, and can diagnose and treat a variety of ailments. Usually working out of a hospital or health clinic, chiropodists may also visit nursing homes, schools and other institutions to provide medical care.
There are many reasons to visit a chiropodist. Children with deformities of the feet or an inability to walk correctly, dancers with stress injuries, diabetics with poor circulation and athletes might all require a chiropodist at one time or another. Bunions, planter’s warts, persistent corns or swollen ankles might also lead someone to the chiropodist’s office.
In the US, chiropodists must follow an academic path similar to that of other medical doctors. Typically, this consists of a college degree followed by four years in a doctoral program, capped by two or more years in residency. A chiropodist carries the title, Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (D.P.M.).
Chiropodists may have one to three Board certifications. The most basic Board certification indicates a nonsurgical classification, the second Board certification is for surgical foot reconstruction and the third specializes in surgical reconstruction relating to the back part of the foot and ankle. Certifications impact the length of residency, with surgical certifications requiring a longer period. In addition to hands-on residency casework, Board certification for the chiropodist involves rigorous written and oral exams.
In addition to Board certification, a chiropodist must obtain a state license for each state in which he or she practices. Laws differ between states as to whether or not, for example, a chiropodist is allowed to perform surgery on the lower legs. In some states, this falls under the purview of the chiropodist, while others states have more limiting laws.
Chiropodist specialties include pediatric care, nonsurgical orthopedics and practices that revolve solely around surgical work. All of these can be satisfying career paths. As of 2006, there are eight chiropodist colleges in the US, regulated by the American Association of Colleges of Podiatric Medicine (AACPM).