Should We Add 'MD' To Our Credentials

By John McCord, DPM

I’ve been too busy during the past 29 years trying to become a good podiatrist to worry about whether I should also be a MD. The old question of whether DPMs should also become MDs has been trotted out recently by another publication. Many of the respected members of our profession believe it would be good for us to have dual degrees. The respect of the medical community is one of the main selling points on the dual degree debate. However, I’m happy being a DPM. I doubt having “MD” attached to my name would make me any happier or generate more respect from my medical colleagues. I always assume those who disrespect me do so for purely personal reasons, not because I am a DPM. Some interesting methods of conferring the coveted MD degree have been proposed. Some feel the only difference in our training is obstetrics and psychiatry. So I guess we get a cram course in delivering babies and shrinking heads and then, presto, we are MDs. I don’t know about the rest of you but my podiatric medical education lacked a few more courses than those two, which separate me from my colleagues who attended medical and osteopathic colleges. I don’t think cram courses in obstetrics and psychiatry will make us ready to become fully trained MDs. Another method of conferring the MD is for DPMs to travel to lovely islands in the Caribbean for a year or so of “medical school.” This would probably be fun. It also keeps a few DPMs off the street for a couple of years. However, what do they have after all that extra training? They can’t get a license unless they do about 15 years of residency training and find a state that recognizes diplomas granted from entrepreneurs. This brings me back to the question: what good would the MD degree be to me? I’m respected in my community. I serve on the board of directors of my hospital. I am chief of surgery of the hospital. I have been president of the county medical society. I get free coffee and doughnuts from the physician’s lounge every morning. I have a physician’s parking sticker on my Volkswagen. I don’t need the MD degree and I don’t want one. I have worked too hard to make the DPM degree meaningful and respected in my community. I enjoy a high level of professional respect and so do my younger DPM colleagues. We are the physicians of choice for complex foot and ankle care. It took a lot of hard work as DPMs to achieve that. If we have “MD” slapped on the end of our names, it will simply water down our legacy as DPMs. To my DPM colleagues who feel they must have “MD” after their names, go to a bona fide medical or osteopathic college. Put in the extra four years and a few more years of residency and earn the distinction the hard way. Guess what? You won’t become a better podiatrist for it. We learn the medicine we need in podiatry school. You will just be older, really tired and probably burned out before you start offering your skills to patients. The patients who do come to you will come because of the DPM behind your name, provided you choose to keep it there. The MD degree isn’t the meal ticket it once was. I sit on the credentials committee of our hospital and I can tell you that no doctor gets admitting privileges just because of the degree behind the name. All physicians must have the training and experience to warrant any privilege that is requested. Our credentials committee turned away two MDs who requested privileges during the past three months. They had the MD degree but their training was inadequate or too old for them to qualify. There is a place in the sun for a doctor with both DPM and MD degrees. I believe we should open our residencies to MDs. Those who qualify could emerge with quality podiatric residency training and a DPM degree. This could help ease the current crisis of a shortage of applicants to podiatry colleges. I have had many of my MD friends ask if such a program is available. They are not dumb. They see we have a professional degree that defines what we do and patients come see us because of our degrees. A young man joined my podiatry class in my third year. He was a MD, who had watched a podiatrist operate on his mother’s bunion. He did the math and quickly concluded that podiatrists have a better lot in professional life than primary care MDs. Think about it. Dr. McCord (pictured) is a Diplomate with the American Board of Podiatric Surgery. He practices at the Centralia Medical Center in Centralia, Wash.

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