Our guest blogger today is Braden, a Podiatric medicine student! He’s here to share his experiences studying medicine from a podiatry perspective.
Hello, my name is Braden and I am currently a second year Podiatry student. I hope that I can help those of you reading this come to know what it is like to be a Podiatric Medical Student
I’d like to lay some ground-work to help those out there who may have never heard of Podiatry.
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“What is Podiatry?”
Not to be confused with pediatrics, podiatric medicine is a specialized branch of medicine devoted to the study, diagnosis, and medical and surgical treatment of disorders of the foot, ankle and lower extremity. Podiatrists are uniquely qualified among medical professionals to treat diseases of the foot and ankle. Whether it is surgery, sports medicine, pediatrics, dermatology, wound care, biomechanics or diabetes, today’s podiatrist can treat the many diverse facets of foot care. Podiatrists can be the first to identify systemic diseases in patients, such as diabetes and vascular disease.
- Perform surgery
- Perform reconstructive and microsurgeries
- Administer sedation and anesthetics
- Perform complete medical histories and physical examinations
- Prescribe medications
- Set fractures and treat sports-related injuries
- Prescribe and fit orthotics, insoles, casts and prosthetics
- Order and perform physical therapy
- Take and interpret X-rays, ultrasound, MRI’s and other imaging studies
- Work as valued members of a community’s health care team
“What are the qualifications of a Podiatrist?”
Doctors of podiatric medicine receive medical education and training in podiatric medical colleges, including four years of graduate education at one of nine podiatric medical colleges (at least within the U.S.) and three years of hospital-based residency and surgical training. All podiatric physicians and surgeons receive a DPM degree.
“How is Podiatry (D.P.M.) Different from M.D. and D.O.?”
There are many differences between the various doctorate degrees and their respected capacities, but I’d like to focus on the fundamentals. Like most other medical schools, the first two years of podiatry school are dedicated to the basic sciences of medicine, followed by a board exam (part 1) in the summer after your second year. In fact, there are a number of Universities where the podiatry students and D.O. students take the same fundamental science courses for the first two years until they both take their respected board exams. Outside of the basic sciences, podiatry students take a number of field specific classes, such as: Lower Extremity Anatomy (being the biggest), Lower Extremity Physical Diagnosis, Radiology, Biomechanics, and Podiatric Medicine and Surgery.
The other big difference is our board exams. After the first two years of medical school, instead of the USMLE or COMLEX, we take the APMLE Part 1 (American Podiatric Medical Licensing Exam). The biggest difference between the exams is the emphasis on Lower Extremity Anatomy (for obvious reasons) and unlike the USMLE Step 1, there is no behavioral science section.
The APMLE Part 1 exam samples seven basic science disciplines:
- Lower Extremity Anatomy (25%)
- Microbiology & Immunology (15%)
- Pharmacology (15%)
- General Anatomy (13%)
- Physiology (13%)
- Pathology (12%)
- Biochemistry (7%)
Currently, I am half way through my 2nd year at Kent State University, College of Podiatric Medicine in Independence, Ohio. Our beautiful campus is about 10 miles outside of Cleveland on a 27-acre location that cultivates an excellent learning environment. Our facilities are extremely nice and I feel blessed to have this opportunity to become a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine.
I am originally from Idaho Falls, Idaho, and I have been married to my beautiful wife for almost 5 years and we have two beautiful children, ages 3 and 1. There are many reasons why I chose to go into medicine and into podiatry specifically, but my wife and kids are my number one reason. They are my driving force and motivation to keep doing my best in school and to better myself as a father, husband and future physician. I could not be doing this without them.
Growing up, my mom was the head surgical nurse for a local Podiatrist, so whenever I got the chance, I would shadow him in surgery. Throughout the many years shadowing him in his office and in surgery, I have grown to love the profession and it is through these experiences that I chose to go into Podiatry.
A Day in the Life of a Podiatric Medicine Student
For some, living in Ohio can be a nightmare with all of the snow and trying to get to school on time with the slick roads in the winter but for me, I’m used to cold and snow. I should probably be a little more grateful for my 10-minute commute to school every day but even still, the traffic is the biggest thing that gets on my nerves. Being winter time, it’s still dark outside when I leave home and sometimes I start to wonder if the sun really exists anymore.
I try to get to school around 7:00am every day to study for an hour before classes start at 8:00. I’ll use this time to catch up on my course material if needed, but mostly I use it to study for boards with SketchyMedical and First Aid. If I have Pharmacology that day, I’ll watch the SketchyPharm video that goes along with our lecture. If I have Pathology that day, I’ll watch a Pathoma video that coincides with the day’s lecture and look over the daily case problem that we will be presenting; our professor likes to pimp you at random so it’s always best to be prepared (this was before SketchyPath).
After Pathology, we dive into my favorite class: Podiatric Surgery. This introductory course is to provide us with a broad foundation of general knowledge for perioperative management and core surgical principles necessary to secure residency training and become successful podiatrists. Though my experiences, I have learned that the field of surgery involves much more than the technical aspects of “cutting and repairing” tissues. As podiatric students, we must have a thorough understanding of the principles of tissue repair and normal healing so that we can appreciate abnormalities in repair. On top of that, we must also understand the technical factors, which will aid in normal repair, and how to diagnose and treat complications. Lastly, podiatric students must appreciate the protocols required in treating surgical patients in a myriad of settings in today’s rapidly changing healthcare environment.
In our Pod-Med Skills Lab, we get to take a hands-on approach to all the things that we have been learning in our class including: padding for plantar lesions, taping, splinting, treating verrucae, debridement, local anesthetic injections, Doppler ultrasound technique, bio-mechanical evaluations, and casting. I think that it is important to stay focused on the genuine nature of our profession throughout our schooling as to avoid being sucked into the rigors of the basic sciences and I feel that our Pod Med class helps to keep us aware of the bigger picture and ultimate goal at hand. Our rotations through the clinic also adds to this.
After Pod-Med Skills Lab, I will head down to help out as a TA in the cadaver lab where the 1st year students are learning Lower Extremity Anatomy. Each student and their lab partner are responsible for performing their dissections properly in order to learn the anatomy in a practical and tangible setting. The lower anatomy course exams are split into a lecture exam and lab exam so my main focus as a TA is to make sure the 1st year students can relate what they are learning in lecture to the actual structures on the body. Sometimes this means helping with dissections or identifying structures on their body that are difficult to find. This helps me stay sharp on my Lower Anatomy knowledge, which makes up the largest section of our board exams (which I will be taking in July).
After TA-ing, I usually have a Pharmacology or Radiology class.
After classes are over for the day, I’ll spend the next few hours reviewing the day’s material and making flashcards of the most high-yield concepts. If I get that done, I’ll continue studying for boards until about 5:30-6:00pm. Once I reach a good stopping point and all of my daily tasks and goals have been accomplished, I’ll either head to the gym or attend the occasional skills workshops that the various clubs on campus put on. These workshops allow you to explore your interests further, learn new skills, and/or practice ones you’ve already learned. For example, the Surgery club puts on suturing, tendon repair and bone saw workshops.
Around this time of the year, as I leave campus and head for home, the sun will have already set, adding to the fact that the majority of my outdoor exposure in in the dark.
As any medical student with a family knows, it can be extremely difficult to be away from your spouse and kids for so long, so that is why arriving home is the best part of my day. As I walk through the door, I’m welcomed by two very excited kids who want nothing else but for me to pick them up and then play with them or read a book. My amazing wife has already started making dinner and she gives me a hug and a kiss as she asks about my day. I honestly don’t know how she handles both kids all day and does everything that she does for our home and family; she truly is my inspiration. While playing with our kids, I’ll ask our 3-year-old son how his day was and what kinds of things he did and enjoy listening to his numerous stories and adventures. After dinner, the kids take baths and get in their pajamas and we normally head downstairs to play games or watch a movie as a family until bedtime. However small or limited they may seem at times, these are the moments that keep me going throughout the day. Everybody has their “why”, their “why are you doing this”, their reason for striving for success and mine is in the form of these three beautiful people.