Why Podiatrists are Needed in the Healthcare System

There was a comment on my blog asking me about my profession and what I do. I'm going to open that up to what podiatrists do in general and how caring for an often neglected body part saves lives. I'm further spurred on to write this by the irresponsible remarks by Rep. John Shadegg (R-AZ) made on Neil Cavuto's Fox News Channel Program. He lumped Podiatry in with aromatherapy and acupuncture, calling them an "esoteric demand that most people don't have or don't need." I won't place judgements on the other slighted professions, but I do have strong feelings about Podiatry.

Most people are fortunate to be born with two feet. Unlike shoes, which wear out after a period of time, these feet must last a lifetime. The average person takes thousands of steps each day and walk the circumference of the Earth twice over their lifetime. Your car needs routine maintenance every few thousand miles. Shouldn't the same be true of your feet.

When something goes wrong with your feet, who is there to fix them? Family practice physicians and internists often prescribe medication. Many orthopedists look to correct the problem with surgery. Podiatrists look for the root of the problem...the underlying biomechanical deficiency...and treat the cause of the issue, not just the effect.

I can talk all day about what we do...people coming into our offices in miserable pain and leaving feeling relieved that there is a solution. The Podiatric profession is responsible for technological improvements in surgical technique, biomechanical correction, such as orthotics and bracing, that have benefited many. Talk to someone who had foot surgery 25 years ago and another who had one recently and you'll find two very different experiences.

The greatest contribution, in my opinion, is the contribution of Podiatry to the care of diabetics. We just can't quantify how many feet and legs have been saved by the direct and indirect influence of a podiatrist. While many are quick to amputate a toe, foot, or leg that is deemed unsaveable, the podiatrist will do everything possible to save the limb. New wound dressings are constantly coming to market, one better than the next, which podiatrists have helped develop. New wound healing therapies are developed with the research by podiatrists. New products are developed to help keep the diabetic foot healthy so these wound dressings and therapies are never needed.

These developments do not just benefit the podiatric profession. I'm proud to have colleagues like Dr. David Armstrong, Dr. Larry Harkless, Dr. Jon Steinberg, and so many others who travel around the country and world educating physicians of all types about the latest techniques and research to save diabetic limbs. Not to mention the thousands who are walking on two feet due to their research, teaching, and development.

So, Congressman, I'm happy you have two healthy feet. I'm glad you've never awoken with a sharp, stabbing pain in your heel. I'm thrilled that you've never known the fear of losing a limb or the elation of knowing that you've "only" needed two toes amputated, but still have a foot to walk on. But just know, that when you do need a podiatrist, you'll be pleased that this "esoteric demand that most people don't have or don't need" is here to help you.
Dr. Andrew Schneider
Dr. Andrew Schneider is a podiatrist and foot surgeon at Tanglewood Foot Specialists in Houston, TX.
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