It never fails. Once I tell someone I’m going into medicine, their next question is, “What do you want to do when you finish?” I reply that I’m in the podiatry program at DMU, which leads to the question: “Why feet?”
I can understand why they ask this question, as many people have an aversion to feet. My first response is to chuckle inwardly and think about the specialties I could never see myself practicing. I certainly don’t say that to put down other specialties, but we each have our specific areas of interest and strength. While I knew in undergrad that I wanted to go into medicine, I had no idea what area of medicine I wanted to pursue. To learn more about my options, I spent time shadowing physicians in several different fields: family practice, otolaryngology, dermatology, urology, ophthalmology, etc. I found things in each specialty that I liked, but nothing seemed to jump out at me.
While I knew I didn’t have to know exactly what I wanted to do going into medical school, I did want to have a better direction. I just couldn’t see myself waking up every day and looking forward to going to work in each of these other specialties. So as my time in undergraduate was coming to a close and applications for school were coming out, I decided that the next doctor I wanted to shadow was a local podiatrist. I had gone to see him before and also knew him outside the doctor-patient relationship. To be honest, before I went to shadow him I didn’t know that podiatry was a separate degree (D.P.M.) rather than a residency post-M.D./D.O. degree.
After shadowing him, it was like a light bulb flipped on in my head. Podiatry had many of the things I wanted in a practice. One of the things I found most appealing is that it focuses on improving one’s ability to move about without pain. To be able to help someone walk with less or no pain is an incredible feeling. You get to walk (no pun intended) through the whole process with the patient, from seeing them come in with pain and walk out at a later visit pain-free. That is awesome. Whether this is done by conservative care or surgery, helping a patient to be able to ambulate easier drastically improves their quality of life.
The practice even has a lot of flexibility with how much office time/surgery one does. Honestly, one isn’t going to know which side of practice they will like better until they get first-hand experience in the office and the OR. Personally, I take a lot of comfort knowing that when I graduate residency, I have a choice of how involved I want to be in both. If I decide that surgery isn’t my thing, I don’t have to do a lot of it. Or, on the other hand, if I absolutely love it, I can do more.
Another one of my desires for a medical practice was to find a specialty that had a wide range of patients not only in age but in background. I didn’t want a practice that was all of one group, e.g., pediatrics, ob/gyn, etc. Podiatry does have a focus on diabetic care (which tends to lend itself to the geriatric population), but it also has an array of other groups such as the pediatric population, adults and athletes. You really get it all. So those of you out there who are still contemplating what you may want to do, go check out a local podiatrist and see what it is really about!