What Is Podiatry?

Podiatric medicine and surgery is a doctoral level medical profession defined by the American Podiatric Medical Association as “that profession of the health sciences concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of conditions affecting the human foot, ankle, and their governing and related structures, including local manifestations of systemic conditions, by all appropriate methods and means.”  Podiatric physicians and surgeons, also known as podiatrists or foot and ankle surgeons, work with all organ systems of the foot and ankle, including the vascular, neurological, dermatological and musculoskeletal systems.

Foot and ankle surgeons are DPMs – Doctors of Podiatric Medicine – who have undergone extensive education, training and board certification focused on the foot and ankle. They undergo more education and training specific to the foot and ankle than any healthcare provider and are the leading experts for a wide range of complex foot and ankle care.

According to the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA), more foot and ankle surgeries are performed by podiatrists than any other medical specialist.  According to the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons, 45% of its members’ patient base is treated for surgical care.  They also provide non-surgical care in terms of medicine and biomechanics.  This comprises 80% of most podiatric practices.

In the United States, podiatric physicians and surgeons complete four years of post-baccalaureate medical school, followed by several years of residency.

The US podiatric medical school curriculum includes lower extremity anatomy, general human anatomy, physiology, general medicine, physical assessment, biochemistry, neurobiology, pathophysiology, genetics and embryology, microbiology, histology, pharmacology, women’s health, physical rehabilitation, sports medicine, research, ethics and jurisprudence, biomechanics, general principles of orthopedic surgery, and foot and ankle surgery.

US-trained podiatrists have complete rotations through hospital departments and full exposure to all pathologies in the major areas of medicine during residency, including emergency medicine, orthopedic surgery, general surgery, anesthesia, radiology, pathology, infectious disease, endocrinology, sports medicine, physical therapy, biomechanics, geriatrics, internal medicine, critical care, cardiology, vascular surgery, psychiatric and behavioral health, neurology, pediatrics, dermatology, pain management, wound care and primary care.

The doctors are licensed by the State in which they practice.  They can take additional steps to become Board Certified by two boards recognized by the APMA.  Dr. Hoy is certified by both boards.  These boards are the American Board of Podiatric Medicine (ABPM), which certifies medical and orthopedic care, and the American Board of Foot and Ankle Surgery (ABFAS), which certifies surgical care.

American Board of Foot and Ankle Surgery utilizes a demanding, comprehensive certification process encompasses passing written examinations, submitting simple and complex surgical cases and completing simulations of cases.  This ensures diplomates perform a diverse and extensive range of foot and ankle surgeries and that they have demonstrated the highest level of proficiency to earn board certification.  To demonstrate continued proficiency, foot and ankle surgeons must be recertified every 10 years.

As physicians who have the authority to prescribe controlled substances, perform surgeries and make clinical diagnoses, podiatric physicians and surgeons, like other physicians and surgeons, are required to complete 100 hours of continuing education every two years for licensure in the State of Washington.

“Dr. Hoy helped me with my foot issue. He was even able to diagnosis and give me advice on an ankle problem that no physical therapist had been able to crack. Highly recommend.” -Patricia M., 6/22/2015

Why see a podiatrist?  Many other types of providers treat the foot and ankle, such as primary care physicians, orthopedic surgeons, physical therapists, nurses, even retail shoe and insert specialty stores.  However, these cannot provide the same level of certified foot and ankle care.  The primary care physician has a broad scope and additional specialty care is needed.  Physical therapists and nurses provide ongoing treatment, such as exercises and wound dressings, but need more specific orders to them from a podiatrist for proper treatment.  Orthopedic surgeons provide surgical care to bones, joints and muscles throughout the body, but they are not specialized to the foot and ankle.  The following video explains.

In conclusion, podiatry is the definitive, comprehensive medical and surgical specialty that deals exclusively with the foot and ankle.


Statements from the American Board of Foot and Ankle Surgery and the American Board of Podiatric Medicine to the United States Senate regarding podiatric training

ACFAS Education Training Position Statement

Facts About Podiatric Medicine

What is the Difference Between a Podiatrist and a Chiropodist?

Profiles of Podiatrists