In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the typical surgical procedures performed by podiatrists were bunionectomies, digital arthroplasties, heel spurs and neuroma excisions. Few did rearfoot surgery and even fewer did trauma. When it came to fixation, podiatrists used K-wires and monofilament wire. Podiatrists did not use bone screws or plates.
Research in podiatry was almost nonexistent. The typical residency was one year in duration and the resident got whatever he or she could from the experience. There was no standardization of training. The only way a podiatrist could get into an emergency room was as a patient. We were not very well accepted by the medical community.
However, there were a few podiatrists that pushed the envelope. They did not let the criticisms of the medical community deter them. They were motivated and were always looking for a better procedure or treatment that would benefit their patients.
These folks included John Buckholz, DPM, Dalton McGlamry, DPM, Lowell Weil Sr., DPM, Allen Jacobs, DPM, and Guido Laporta, DPM. Harry Vogler, DPM, was the first podiatrist to take a course on internal fixation but he had to take a veterinary course because the allopathic programs were not open to podiatry. The motivation and philosophies of these doctors were passed on to their residents and gradually the quest for knowledge spread through our profession.
The changes in podiatry in the last 30 years have been remarkable. Almost all podiatry residencies are three years in duration and they are becoming standardized. Podiatrists conduct and publish original research, lecture at allopathic meetings, travel around the world doing humanitarian medical missions and write textbooks.
Look at the types of surgeries we perform today. We still do forefoot surgery but we also commonly perform rearfoot reconstructive and ankle surgery, and do it very well. Our scope of practice continues to develop. Many of us now perform our own history and physicals for hospital outpatient surgery.
Where is our profession going? I feel we will continue to provide specialized training for every member of our profession and improve the quality of care for our patients. Are we following the path that osteopaths took on their way to becoming integrated with allopathic physicians? Only time will tell.