Foot surgery is commonly performed by orthopedists, usually those with special training in “foot and ankle surgery” by taking an extra year of training, after a 4 year residency in orthopedics, in the form of a “fellowship.” However, a general orthopedist may also do foot surgery with out specific “foot and ankle surgery” training.
Podiatrists may operate as soon as they get out of podiatrist school and once they get a license to practice from the State. They are not required to take further training after graduating from podiatry school. However, there are many podiatry residency programs and they generally provide good surgical training. In addition to a residency, the podiatrist may get “credentialed” or “board certified” by the American Board of Podiatric Surgery. This involves first having experience practicing podiatry, performing surgeries and submitting case reports to the Board, taking a written examination and taking an oral examination.
Podiatrists who not get accepted into a residency program, or who just do not want to spend the time, sometimes do what is styled as a “preceptorship” which is little more than practicing with an experienced podiatrist in his office for a year and assisting in whatever surgery that podiatrist performs. While this provides some training, it can be very limited because the “student” is not usually getting the experience residents get in residency programs such as operating in several different hospitals, seeing many different kinds of surgeries and even emergencies, and operating along side many different podiatrist and learning a variety of techniques.
There is another Board Certification for podiatrists and it is called the American Board of Podiatric Medicine. This board’s certification is for competency in podiatric medicine and podiatric orthopedics. While it is not aimed at surgical training like the ABPS (above) it does provide certification for other aspects of podiatry which are non-surgical related.
And no matter which certification your podiatrist has, you should:
- know your podiatrist’s credentials
- be comfortable with your podiatrist
- know what surgery is being proposed to you
- ask you podiatrist about her experience with that surgery and
- get a second opinion