If DPMs Are Ignored By MDs, Is It Their Fault Or Ours?

Kathleen Satterfield DPM FACFAOM

I was at an educational dinner recently and I realized I was the only podiatrist in a room of vascular, general surgery and plastic surgeons. Afterward, I spoke privately with the lecturer, a well known vascular surgeon, from the Northwest who has educated many podiatry residents and fellows over the years. We have been on several programs together over the years and I felt comfortable talking frankly with him.

I noticed that although he emphasized “multidisciplinary wound care” throughout his lecture, he never once mentioned the word “podiatrist” in this room of MDs. He quoted a great deal of literature from many of our colleagues including David Armstrong, DPM, PhD, Larry Lavery, DPM, Amol Saxena, DPM, and others. However, instead of saying, “Leading podiatric physician David Armstrong” or “Podiatry researcher Amol Saxena,” he would say, “Dr. Armstrong …”

During our conversation after the lecture, he brought up an interesting point about MDs’ attitudes about podiatry. The vascular surgeon said the problem with medical doctors’ attitudes about podiatry is the only thing they know about it is where podiatry came from. They do not know where podiatry is now.

I countered with what he thought was a somewhat controversial message. You may too. I told him that when MDs or DOs do not give us proper respect and a place at the table where we belong, I believe it is often because we have not done our job in educating them about what our training and skills are today.

He was surprised. He noted that he recently had a postgraduate trainee, who claimed that the MDs at his hospital were “persecuting” him.

It can feel like that sometimes. We have all been there. Perhaps we have been denied full privileges, denied the right to head up a hospital committee or have been bumped from the OR schedule for an MD’s “more important” case. Whatever the issue, there has been some slight that each of us has endured. Guess what? The MDs have endured them too. A family practice doctor may have experienced a slight from an internist and an internist has experienced it from a gastroenterologist.

Putting someone else down is a practice in insecurity. Educating someone about your training and the positive effect you have on patients can help turn around old prejudices. Remember that it was little more than a century ago that MDs served an apprenticeship in order to practice. As podiatrists, we are on a much faster track in terms of the development of our formal education and advanced residency/fellowship training.

Be excited. Go out and tell your medical colleagues about your profession. It is our responsibility to let others know, not theirs to simply know it.


Surprised to hear that a vascular surgeon may have slighted a podiatrist. Most vascular surgeons look very favorable on podiatry, after all they get a lot of referrals from us... On educating medical doctors? That's easy. In today's world many patients need referrals to see specialists such as podiatrists. Are you sending consultation reports. These reports show what we do. How many capitated family practitioners want their Diabetic patients to take off their shoes so that they can test for sensory perception, etc.?... Most of the young MDs and young DOs have trained side by side with podiatry... Unfortunately some of the older MDs may think that a Podiatrist is a non hospital trained, glorified pedicurist that makes a living giving whirl pools and cutting corns. Sadly this may be the truth in some cases.No disrespect to a forefathers, but podiatry has come a long way... Today's Podiatric medical training general includes 3 years or more of hospital training and this will erase any idea of glorified pedicurist...Oh and yes my Orthopedic friends feel they are better than podiatrists, but they feel they are better than family practitioners and internists too... The Northern Italians feel they are better than the Southern Italians...Northern Ireland thinks they are better than Southern Ireland... The people living north of the Long Island Expressway think they are better than those of the South Shore...DON'T BE INSECURE! Most knowledgeable medical doctors do respect the podiatry profession... Send reports ! Let them know what you do ! It will lead to referrals and proper acknowledgement.

That is excellent advice. Thank you.

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