APMA. ACFAS. ABPOPPM. A glance at the acronyms of the various podiatric organizations can fill you with visions of alphabet soup. For those just starting out in podiatry or those who are trying to cut back on how many organization fees they’re paying each year, choosing from among these organizations can be very daunting. The question has to be asked: What are the goals of these boards and organizations and what will they do for you? The types of organizations run the gamut from state societies and educational organizations to practice management groups. To join some groups, you’ll no doubt need certification or face testing from other groups. Many charge dues for their services. In exchange, those in the know say the organizations can offer you annual meetings, scientific journals and an enhancement of your professional skills. Assessing The Benefits Of APMA Membership The lion’s share of the country’s 13,000-plus podiatrists, or about 80 percent, belong to the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA). It has 53 component societies in the country, including state societies and 22 affiliated societies, according to its Web site, www.apma.org. Some state societies, like the New York State Podiatric Medical Association, include APMA membership as part of the state dues. Many other organizations require their members to belong to the APMA. On its Web site, the APMA offers resources as well as an extensive code of ethics covering medical and business aspects in podiatry. The APMA also runs a well-attended annual scientific meeting that will be held in Washington, D.C. in August. The APMA’s official journal is the bimonthly, peer-reviewed Journal of the American Podiatric Medical Association, which has been published since 1907. The journal features research studies, literature reviews and association news. As far as educational initiatives go, the APMA runs the non-profit Foot Health Foundation. The foundation not only informs the public of foot and ankle care in the form of care guidelines and early detection, it also helps to educate referring physicians and managed care organizations on podiatric health issues. It also supports educational opportunities for future podiatrists. The American Podiatric Medical Association also is affiliated with the American Association of Hospital and Healthcare Podiatrists, Inc. (AAHHP). The non-profit group helps APMA members maintain staff membership in hospitals and other health care facilities, and promotes educational programs in hospitals, among other functions. Members of the AAHHP must belong to the APMA and also may attend an annual meeting and receive a newsletter. Understanding Two Key Organizations That Support Podiatric Medical Education The APMA also operates the Council on Podiatric Medical Education and the Fund for Podiatric Medical Education, which has given over $1 million in scholarships to podiatric students. The council receives its authority from the APMA House of Delegates and is charged with overseeing the accreditation of colleges of podiatric medicine and programs for podiatric medical assistants. It also handles the approval of residency programs and sponsors of continuing education as well as the recognition of specialty certifying boards for podiatric medical practice. Both the Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and the U.S. Secretary of Education recognize the council as the accrediting agency for first professional degree programs in podiatric medicine. The Council on Podiatric Medical Education has itself established the Joint Committee on the Recognition of Specialty Boards (JCRSB), a committee composed of representatives of the podiatric profession, specialty boards, licensing bodies, the health care community and the public. The scholarship arm of the APMA is its Fund for Podiatric Medical Education (FPME). The fund began in 1959 as a tax-exempt organization involved in research and loan funds for students. In 1991, it began to provide scholarships to podiatric medical students. To date, the fund has awarded $1.3 million in scholarships to nearly 1,000 scholarship recipients, with awards averaging $1,300 per student, according to the APMA. The Fund for Podiatric Medicine distributes scholarship money among the seven colleges of podiatric medicine, based on their attendance. “The FPME recognizes the importance of quality education and is determined to give every student the opportunity to receive this education without undue burden and worry about mounting financial obligations,” according to an FPME statement. A Review Of Surgical Organizations The American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons (ACFAS) touts interaction among its 5,000 podiatric foot and ankle surgeons as one reason to join. The college was founded in 1942 with the goal of promoting podiatric surgery. Members must belong to the APMA and be certified or rated qualified by the American Board of Podiatric Surgery. The mission of ACFAS is to provide education and service to members and look out for their social and economic well-being, according to Secretary-Treasurer Gary Jolly, DPM. “We are a unique breed of podiatrist by virtue of our education and training,” says Dr. Jolly. Dr. Jolly says the ACFAS annual meeting, which will be held later this month in Orlando, Fla., is the “best of all foot and ankle meetings.” In addition to the annual meeting, the ACFAS also sponsors surgical skills courses during the year for which surgeons can earn CE credits. The ACFAS also publishes the scientific Journal of Foot and Ankle Surgery and a bimonthly newsletter called The Bulletin. The college is currently doing a needs assessment via a survey and focus groups in order to determine what its members want, notes Dr. Jolly. Membership fees are $325 and resident fees are $100. Dr. Jolly says the ACFAS recently had to raise fees for the first time in seven years to provide services to its members. “Given all the things we do for our members, holding the line for seven years is a remarkable accomplishment,” he says. “We are moving in the right direction.” All fellows of the college are certified by the American Board of Podiatric Surgery and many have additional fellowship training in various aspects of foot and ankle surgery, according to www.acfas.org. The college runs a department of socioeconomics and practice management that enables members to get assistance for their various business needs. The department focuses on areas including claims denials, CMS compliance and scope of practice issues. The ACFAS also offers its Clinical and Scientific Research Program, which funds clinical and outcomes research studies to those who meet certain criteria, according to the ACFAS. The program’s goal is to fund two grants each year. The college has also developed clinical practice guidelines for its members for surgical conditions. What About Bolstering Your Practice Management Expertise? The American Academy of Podiatric Practice Management (AAPPM), based in North Andover, Mass., has been in existence for 40 years, according to President Hal Ornstein, DPM, FACFAS. The academy touts itself as “the friendliest group in podiatry,” according to its Web site, www.aappm.com. The group increased from 90 to 400 members in 2001. Its meetings have increased from one to three per year and Dr. Ornstein says it had a “fantastic” meeting in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “We embrace our young. We do anything and everything to help them become successful,” says Dr. Ornstein. “It’s all about learning, sharing and building. We are very unique.” There is not a lot of downtime at seminars run by the American Academy of Podiatric Practice Management, explains Dr. Ornstein, who says sessions are shared and participants even eat together “because it’s all about sharing.” The AAPPM’s goals are finding out what practice management needs are, aggressively addressing them and maintaining programs which benefit residents, notes Dr. Ornstein. Its Web site lists a needs assessment summary describing what members think of its services. In the future, Dr. Ornstein says the group wants to increase its membership and networking. The academy also maintains a resource center, employee manuals and a forms library. It has peer mentoring over the phone, in which successful podiatrists help other DPMs, which Dr. Ornstein says is unique. It also offers a free chat room once a month in which marketing and coding pearls are discussed. The AAPPM has student chapters at schools and visits colleges during the year to host roundtable discussions. It has visited 15 different places in 18 months, according to Dr. Ornstein. The membership fee is $199, which is lower for residents and new practitioners, according to Dr. Ornstein. A Guide To Certification Boards The American Board of Podiatric Surgery (ABPS) has been around since 1975. The board is recognized by the Joint Committee on the Recognition of Specialty Boards of the Council on Podiatric Medical Education and can deem a podiatrist as board-qualified or board-certified. The ABPS has over 5,400 active, certified members and more than 1,900 board-qualified members, according to www.abps.org. Another certification board, the American Board of Medical Specialties in Podiatry (ABMSP), was organized in 1986 by podiatrists for the purpose of granting board certification to office-based or “ambulatory” surgeons. The board offers certification to qualified podiatrists in three areas of practice: primary care in podiatric medicine, podiatric surgery, and prevention and treatment of diabetic foot wounds. ABMSP is accredited and approved by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), an accreditation division of the National Organization for Competency Assurance (NOCA), according to its Web site, www.abmsp.org. In addition, the American Board of Podiatric Orthopedics and Primary Podiatric Medicine (ABPOPPM) offers a comprehensive board qualification and certification process in podiatric medicine and orthopedics. “While certification by the board does not guarantee competence in practice, it does indicate that the podiatric physician has been judged by his peers to have demonstrated, via a rigorous examination process, a fund of knowledge and competence in the areas being tested,” according to www.abpoppm.org. ABPOPPM is recognized by the American Podiatric Medical Association and has met the criteria established by the Joint Committee on the Recognition of Specialty Boards of the Council on Podiatric Medical Education. The board handles the examination process that leads to board certification and grants, and issues diplomate certificates to successful candidates. ABPOPPM members are required to pay yearly re-registration fees. The fee is $175 for board-qualified members and $250 for board certified members. The board’s education arm is the American College of Foot and Ankle Orthopedics and Medicine (ACFAOM). In existence since 1951, it has about 1,200 members. It says it’s the second largest group affiliated with the American Podiatric Medical Association. The group offers seminars, educational programs and literature. What About Examinations? Many boards require testing and the National Board of Podiatric Medical Examiners (NBPME) is the non-profit board that has the mission of overseeing the development and administration of licensing exams, according to President Michael Hrilijac, DPM, JD, LLM. The board is composed of representatives from the Federation of Podiatric Medical Boards, a state board member, specialty boards representative, a residency director, a practicing podiatrist, a public member, a student, and a college educator. “The board’s duty is to the public, not the profession,” explains Dr. Hriljac. “The exam validates the professional training of the individuals who wish to obtain state licensure by testing for minimal competency to practice. The exam is not developed to be used as a graduation exam, although it has been used in that manner.” Dr. Hriljac says the NBPME contracts with national testing services to develop and administer the exams. Most states require licensure candidates to take three exams, according to John McCord, DPM. Candidates take national board part I after the second year of podiatry school, national board part II in the fourth year of podiatry school and PM Lexis, which is taken during or after residency, according to Dr. McCord. Dr. Hriljac says 42 states use this series of exams as their licensing test. Members and diplomates do not pay dues and exam fees cover the board’s operating expenses, notes Dr. Hriljac. Those who pass the exam are designated Diplomates of the National Board of Podiatric Examiners.