Weathering The Changes To Improve The Profession

By Megan Lawton, DPM

   Change versus experience. It is a theme that was on the forefront of many people’s minds late last year. Now, in the podiatric community, this theme of change lives on with surgical affiliations.
   The American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) has recently announced the formation of its new affiliate, the American Society of Podiatric Surgeons, Inc. (ASPS). Meanwhile, the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgery (ACFAS) continues on without the requirement of APMA membership for renewing members.

   The ASPS represents change while the ACFAS represents experience.

   Up until now, students advancing through school and into residency have been familiar with ACFAS and its requisites to ultimately obtain fellow status. With a new option of a surgical affiliate in the profession, students, residents and new practitioners alike will need to evaluate each and determine what track they will take.

   The ACFAS was established in 1942 and is the educational affiliate of the American Board of Podiatric Surgery (ABPS). This organization has been the leading surgical affiliation of the profession. Questions could be posed to this group on how this will change membership, any benefits or pricing.

   It is anticipated that the ASPS will be a cost-effective component of APMA while also allowing for direct communication between the two. There may be numerous questions for this group. Will there be ASPS meetings separate from the APMA? Will the Journal of the American Podiatric Medical Association (JAPMA) be affiliated with ASPS at all? What requirements will be needed for different status groups?

   Naturally, there will be physicians who belong to both surgical affiliations. The ASPS will in fact be inviting eligible members to apply.

   What remains unclear, however, is the path the younger members of the profession will take. Things may become more definitive as further details surface, but for now, we can formulate some thoughts between different groups within podiatry.

   Theoretically, students and some residents will have the toughest choice of affiliate. Many will be looking at a potential lower cost alternative while accumulating record student debt. Others may have name recognition or trusted experience from older friends in the profession.

   New practitioner colleagues of mine are already board qualified by the ABPS and are in the process of organizing cases for the next step of certification. Some have already followed the direction best known to them and have applied for associate status with ACFAS. Just coming out of residency, however, these practitioners are still in the know and will have heard many of the details of the new ASPS and will change if the potential strength is there.

   Feelings may be more divided among more established practitioners. There were strong feelings both ways about ACFAS and APMA membership that may carry over to the new affiliate. Some may not even have looked at alerts sent out by APMA to inform of the new group, and be unaware of the formation of the ASPS.

   Relating to this topic, there is a great quote by King Whitney Jr.: “Change has a considerable psychological impact on the human mind. To the fearful, it is threatening because it means that things may get worse. To the hopeful, it is encouraging because things may get better. To the confident, it is inspiring because the challenge exists to make things better.”

   We are always striving in the podiatry profession to make things better and work toward excellence. With the ACFAS or ASPS being somewhat in direct competition, it will result in a free market situation that should facilitate better quality and lower cost. Negative results would include fear, jealousy, expanded ego, etc.

   At the same time, we have heard the theme of unity within the profession. The new formation of the ASPS brings up an interesting aspect to this subject. Are we, as a profession, heading towards unity with our national association becoming a powerhouse of political, academic and now surgical might, or is this something that will be a dividing factor within podiatry?

   Whatever eventually transpires, it will be interesting to follow the direction of the profession and its new endeavors along with the steadfast direction of the established ones.

   As a side note to this article, I would like to thank John McCord, DPM for his dedication to the profession and to this column. Many years ago, I had the opportunity to be a guest writer for him and still greatly appreciate that honor. Although we will be seeing a little less of him, we wish him well on all his adventures.

Dr. Lawton is in private practice in Naples, Fla.

Dr. McCord is a Fellow of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons. He recently retired from practice at the Centralia Medical Center in Centralia, Wash.

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