It is easy for practitioners in the United States to think that podiatric medicine is primarily an American profession. It would be provincial and wrong to think that. Countries all over the world have branches of the profession of podiatry and it can be fascinating to take a look at how other healthcare systems far and wide deliver foot care.
Over the years, I have had the privilege and pleasure of traveling to many of these locations to teach colleagues aspects of what we do in our branch of podiatric medicine. During these visits, I am always heartened by the interest and enthusiasm these colleagues have in learning more about aspects of our profession. As a specialist in podopediatrics, it is very gratifying to encounter so much interest around the world in learning how to better evaluate and care for children’s feet.
In some healthcare systems, the podiatrists, podologists or other foot care providers are less involved with surgical management of pathologies and have more of a keen interest in biomechanics, orthopedic and pediatric medicine. In many countries, where scope of practice allows, colleagues are eager to enhance their surgical skills with intensive courses including cadaver surgery labs that offer invaluable opportunities for hands-on training.
I recently returned from teaching students enrolled in a “mestrado” or masters program at Cooperativa de Ensino Superior, Politécnico e Universitário (CESPU), a private school with a thriving podology program located in Gandra, Portugal. I was invited to teach their students an intensive weekend course in podopediatrics and they eagerly attended two long days of lectures offered in English.
I was impressed by these students and their interest in learning more about children’s feet. I was even more impressed by their ability to follow my comprehensive lectures, delivered at a steady “American” pace, in a language that was not their own. While some of them had a bit of difficulty speaking English, their ability to keep up and learn was striking. When they wanted to ask me a question, they turned to their classmates whose spoken English was better and they stepped up for their colleagues.
Not long before my visit, these same students attended a course with a noted biomechanics expert from the United Kingdom and learned advanced theories of foot biomechanics and function that will help these future practitioners to become talented colleagues. All of this international fellowship is very encouraging and makes our profession seem more intimate and more connected.
There is also much to be admired and respected from our international colleagues in the area of research and publication. Considerable research and writing in periodicals on foot biomechanics and related topics comes from our colleagues working in other countries. This contributes to greater understanding for all of us and furthers the growth of our profession. As an educator in biomechanics and pediatrics, I continue to learn a great deal from my international colleagues in reading the results of their research and their many thoughtful publications.
I have had my own international publication experience. I co-edited the second edition of Introduction to Podopediatrics (Elsevier) with Peter Thomson, BSc, DpodM, MChS my distinguished colleague and good friend, who is based in Dunfermline, Scotland. This collaboration led to a volume containing significant contributions from experts in pediatric foot care with diverse backgrounds practicing in different countries. Over the years, it has been very gratifying to find many readers of our text as I travel and meet colleagues far and wide.
So the next time you are tempted to think of podiatric medicine as solely an American profession, remember all our colleagues around the world using their skills and expertise to keep their patients ambulating pain-free.