New Podiatry School To Debut Next Year

By Brian McCurdy, Associate Editor

Students pursuing a career in podiatry will have a new option when Midwestern University unveils a new podiatric medicine program in October 2004. The university, located in Glendale, Ariz., will become the seventh member of the American Association of Colleges of Podiatric Medicine (AACPM) in 2005 and its new four-year program will have slots for 30 students. Jeffrey C. Page, DPM, the Director of the Arizona Podiatric Medical Program at Midwestern University, says the program will address a strong future demand for DPMs as well as the needs of the surrounding community. Citing 1999 projections from the Liaison Committee of the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA), Dr. Page notes Arizona is “at or below the forecast of podiatric physicians required in metropolitan areas with fee for service plans.” He adds that between 1991 and 1999, there was a significant decline in the number of podiatric physicians per 100,000 people in Arizona. The new program will be in an area surrounded by Native American tribes, including 22 tribes that live in Arizona, according to Dr. Page. These include the Pima Indians, who have been widely studied for diabetes prevalence. In a report, Dr. Page notes the Indian Health Service (IHS) has acknowledged a “tremendous need” to increase the number of podiatrists within its system and that the IHS appropriated additional funding to that end in 1999. Terence B. Albright, DPM, the Dean of the William M. Scholl College of Podiatric Medicine at Finch University, says attracting Native Americans to podiatry is “a great idea” due to the high prevalence of diabetes in the population and a paucity of podiatric care. Dr. Page adds that the podiatric program has committed to reserving 10 percent of each class for qualified Native American students. Will A New School Help Or Hurt The Profession? Dr. Page argues an eighth podiatry program will indeed help the profession and debunks the myth that competition will not be helpful for podiatrists’ businesses. Citing the 2002 Podiatric Practice Survey by the APMA, Dr. Page says DPMs practicing in groups earn “substantially more” than those practicing alone and “a minimum number or ‘critical mass’ of a profession’s members is required to achieve the needed level of visibility to achieve success.” Chet Evans, DPM, the Dean and Associate Vice President of Barry University, concurs with the idea of critical mass increasing visibility. “If podiatrists don’t capture the market share, other professions providing foot care services certainly will,” says Dr. Evans, who supports the Midwestern podiatry program. “I do think the new school will invite greater competition among the colleges for students in light of the continued depressed applicant pool but this may have a positive effect in strengthening our educational system,” says Dr. Albright, who supports the new school. Dr. Page says the Labor Department in 2001 projected the need for new podiatrists would increase by 10 to 20 percent through 2008. As Dr. Evans notes, the over-85 population is the fastest growing group in the United States. When you combine that with the increased diabetes prevalence throughout the world, Dr. Evans says it will lead to a greater demand for new podiatrists. After combined first year enrollment at the six AACPM colleges bottomed out at 401 in 2001, the interest in pursuing a podiatry career seems to be on the rise again. In 2002, first-year enrollment increased to 430 and improved to 461 this year, according to the AACPM. Dr. Page says this resurgence is important as the profession will start losing members over the next decade as baby boomers reach retirement age. Will The New Program Affect Enrollment At Other Schools? While there may be those who dispute the need for another podiatry college, officials at other schools seems to welcome the addition of another four-year program. “Obviously, there will be those who are negative about the numbers,” suggests Dr. Albright. “This negativity is driven by personal perceptions and not by a global view of the benefits for podiatric medicine.” Dr. Evans says he believes the school’s first-year target enrollment of 30 students will not have a negative effect on the applicant pool at the other colleges. Dr. Page adds that the new program will emphasize advanced technology and mesh well with the other medical disciplines at the university. Dr.

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