A podiatrist, also know as a foot and ankle surgeon for those podiatrists who are further trained in foot and ankle surgery, is a physician whose practice focuses on preventing, diagnosing and treating conditions of the foot and ankle. Podiatrists (foot and ankle surgeons) provide comprehensive medical care for a wide range of foot and ankle disorders and injuries that affect people of all ages. Additionally, podiatrists (foot and ankle surgeons) are qualified to detect the early stages of diseases that show warning signs in the lower extremities, such as diabetes, arthritis and cardiovascular disease, and they manage foot conditions that may pose an ongoing threat to a patient’s overall health.
After completing their undergraduate education, people studying to become podiatrists enter a four-year curriculum at an accredited podiatric medical school, graduating with the degree of Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM). The DPM program is the same length as programs at medical schools for osteopathic doctors (DOs) and medical doctors (MDs). They cover the same basic and clinical sciences, but the podiatric medical school curriculum also provides intensive focus on conditions of the foot and ankle.
After podiatric medical school, podiatrists (foot and ankle surgeons) enter a postgraduate residency in podiatric medicine and surgery approved by the Council on Podiatric Medical Education. These residencies are similar to, and often integrated with, residencies for MDs and DOs, and provide training in general medicine, general surgery and surgical specialties. The critical difference is the higher volume of cases and time focused on the foot and ankle in residency programs for podiatric surgeons, also known as foot and ankle surgeons, DPMs or foot and ankle doctors. Currently, the majority of podiatric residency programs are three years in length. Upon completing their residencies, foot and ankle surgeons may receive additional training in specific areas of foot and ankle surgery through fellowships.
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