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Podiatry is a specialized medical profession involving advanced or graduate training to obtain a degree that may be called a PhD, DPM (doctor of podiatric medicine) or Pod. D (podiatry doctorate). Though this profession is deeply concerned in medical treatment of ailments of feet, ankles and anything from the knee down, it is not the same as getting an MD degree. Most specialists in medicine have been trained in sequential level to do the most basic medical care to the most advance in their specialty. Podiatrists could not set up a general practitioner practice if they choose since they are not medical doctors, as this term is normally understood. This is important to understand because it may determine the path of the person looking at podiatry schools: attend podiatry school in lieu of medical school, or attend medical school and then specialize as an orthopedist, who is also trained to treat feet disorders.
One of the issues in choosing a podiatry school is that there aren’t that many of them. In countries like the US, there are only nine at present. Choosing the best podiatry school may come down to location in the US. Schools are located in Arizona, California, Florida, Iowa, Illinois, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Periodically new schools are added. There are some podiatric schools in the Caribbean, but those planning a practice in the US will want to attend a school that is accredited by the Council on Podiatric Medical Education.
In all cases, people can expect podiatry school to last four years and be a combination of intense study in the first two years, roughly on par with medical school studies, and then two years of practice, externship and internship. Really, the practical details of where to go can depend on which schools are closest, which schools are most admired by the person applying, and which schools accept the applicant. Since there are so few, getting in can be competitive.
Another choice people have if they want to do specialty practice on the feet is to go to medical school and then specialize in orthopedics. This is obviously a longer path, but there are many more medical schools to attend and more orthopedic residencies. However, orthopedics is not limited to care of the feet. An alternate choice may be available wherein licensed doctors apply to podiatry school instead of doing an orthopedics specialty. This will still take about the same amount of time as medical school and specialty, although some podiatry schools wave the first year’s studying if medical school studies were recent.
An orthopedist's medical education falls well short in terms of length and depth when compared to a podiatrist's education in the foot and ankle. Also, as of 2015, DPM's join MD's and DO's as "physicians" instead of allied health. Perhaps it's time to get a little current?
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