Licensed California podiatrists care for your feet—and your health
Twenty-six bones. Thirty-three joints. More than 100 muscles, tendons, and ligaments. All that and more in just one of your feet.
But if any of these many things ever go awry, the more than 2,000 licensed California doctors of podiatric medicine—commonly called podiatrists—are there to make sure your feet, and your overall health, are the best they can be.
A VITAL HEALTH CARE SPECIALTY
According to the Encyclopedia Brittanica, references to diagnosis and treatment of foot diseases and disorders can be found as far back as 1500 B.C., when the Egyptian Ebers medical papyrus recorded some of the earliest remedies for foot problems. Fast-forward to 1774, when the first primary work on foot medical care—Chiropodologia—was published by D. Low of London. Doctors specializing in foot care appeared in England in the late 18th century, and itinerant “corn cutters” became a fixture of North American rural life during the 19th century.
The world’s first organization of professional chiropodists (as podiatrists were called in that day) was established in New York in 1895, with the National Association of Chiropodists—which eventually became the American Podiatric Medical Association—established in 1912 with 225 members.
The podiatry profession has evolved and expanded over the centuries until it has become its current recognized medical specialty. Today, all 50 states, as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, formally license podiatrists, with the great majority requiring residency or other post-graduate training prior to full licensure.
To be eligible for California licensure as a doctor of podiatric medicine, applicants must have graduated from an approved college or school of podiatric medicine approved by the Podiatric Medical Board of California (PMBC). Podiatric medical school includes two years of classroom instruction and laboratory work followed by two years of clinical rotation and patient care. Graduates are awarded a doctor of podiatric medicine (DPM) degree. Podiatric medical school graduates then need at least two years of graduate medical education (GME or postgraduate residency training) and must pass standard national licensing tests before receiving a permanent California license to practice.
KEEPING YOU ON YOUR TOES
Once licensed, California DPMs or podiatrists are ready to help patients with a wide variety of issues and ailments that not only affect your feet, but also can impact your entire body and holistic health. A podiatrist’s usual duties include:
- Assessing the condition of your feet, ankles, or lower legs by reviewing your medical history, listening to your concerns, and performing a physical examination.
- Diagnosing foot, ankle, and lower leg problems through physical exams, X-rays, medical laboratory tests, and other methods.
- Providing treatment for foot, ankle, and lower leg ailments, such as prescribing special shoe inserts (orthotics) to improve your mobility.
- Performing foot and ankle surgeries, such as removing bone spurs, fracture repairs, and correcting other foot and ankle deformities.
- Advising and instructing you on foot and ankle care and on general wellness techniques.
- Prescribing medications.
- Coordinating patient care with other physicians.
- Referring patients to other physicians or specialists if they detect larger health problems, such as diabetes or vascular disease.
Podiatrists—themselves a medical specialty—can further specialize in aspects of podiatric medicine and surgery, including sports medicine, infectious disease, wound care, radiology, biomechanics, orthopedics, vascular disease, diabetes and limb salvage, dermatology, pediatrics, geriatrics, hospital administration, academia, and research. They can work in a private or group practice, multispecialty groups, clinics, hospitals, long-term care facilities, or other settings.
And these medical specialists are needed: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects steady career growth for podiatrists, citing an aging population with related mobility and foot-related issues, as well as Americans’ overall growing rates of chronic conditions.
For more information about podiatric medicine and how to become a podiatrist or DPM in California, visit PMBC’s website at pmbc.ca.gov; to check a professional’s license, visit search.dca.ca.gov.
Related Reading: Podiatrists Urge Preventative Foot Care for Diabetics and Growing Pains: How to Avoid Long-Lasting Effects of Flatfeet in Children.