Podiatrist or Orthopedist?

I had a patient come into my office for diabetic foot care. He had recently had some surgery done on his foot. I asked him what was done and he provided a brief response and explained why he needed the surgery and that it was done by an orthopedic surgeon. After some talking back and forth the patient then asked the question "Are you a surgeon too?" I responded, "Yes, I am."

All too often patients think that for nails, warts, athlete's foot and other skin issues of the foot, you go see a podiatrist. If surgery of the foot is needed, you go to an orthopedist. What patients don't understand is that today's podiatrists are very well trained in surgery. 

Podiatrists are Surgeons 


The training of a podiatrist is extensive. After four years of college, a podiatrist continues on for four years of podiatric medical school. Most schools are affiliated with major universities and medical centers, such as Kent State University College of Podiatric Medicine. KSUCPM is where I attended and has affiliations with the Cleveland Clinic. After graduation, the podiatrist continues to a hospital-based residency program which is now a minimum of 3 years of training in surgery and medicine. The podiatrist then has to meet additional qualifications to become board certified. Board certification involves submitting surgical cases that the doctor has performed where they are reviewed in regards to the work up, surgical planning and decision making, as well as the overall surgical correction of the problem. If the panel of certified surgeons feel the doctor peformed the correct procedure for the problem and has acceptable results, the doctor may qualify to become board certified. There are board certifications for forefoot procedures (mostly toe procedures) and for ankle and rearfoot reconstruction (these are more complex and traumatic injuries). 

While it's true that some podiatrists choose to limit their practices, all are qualified to treat all disorders of the foot and ankle. I know many good podiatrists that choose to limit their surgery to more elective forefoot procedures, such as correction of bunionshammertoes, and neuromas. I am a board certified foot and ankle reconstructive surgeon. I served as head of podiatry at Avera Medical Group in Brookings, SD where I was the on call podiatrist at Brookings Health System. I performed many ankle fractures, Achilles tendon ruptures, complex flat foot reconstruction as well as other traumatic injuries while being on call as the only podiatrist in town and within a 50 mile radius. While I have extensive surgical training, I still employ a conservative first approach and surgery is used as a last resort for most non-traumatic foot and ankle problems. 


Any surgery can be nerve racking, which is why I will take as much time with you as you feel you need to answer your questions. That way, you will know exactly what my plan will be--and why I feel that plan is your best treatment option. I will work together to address any concerns and will have a clear postoperative course mapped out. Nobody likes surprises and you'll find that your surgical experience will go exactly as you were told it would be.

And if surgery is your only option, rest assured I have plenty of experience with your procedure. I believe that podiatrists are the best trained in matters of the foot and ankle and would have one of my fellow podiatrists operate on me over an orthopedic surgeon any day.

My patient had surgery by an orthopedic surgeon, and they did a terrific job. As a patient the choice is yours...the best I can do is offer my opinion as to what I can offer you.  If you're faced with a similar choice, be sure not to limit your options.

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