Medical students (MSs) in allopathic and osteopathic medical programs may not be adequately exposed to the role of podiatric physicians and surgeons in health care. We explored perceptions of the specialty field of podiatric medicine from the perspective of MSs in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, area.
In this cross-sectional survey study, responses regarding podiatric education and scope of practice were collected via a 16-question, self-reported, anonymous online survey distributed to MSs at one osteopathic and three allopathic medical schools in the Philadelphia area. Inferences and conclusions were drawn from the percentages of respondents. Statistical analyses for school of attendance, year of study, and physician relative subgroups were performed.
The 129 survey responses obtained revealed misunderstandings regarding podiatric education and training. Only 45.7% correctly answered that podiatric medical students do not take the United States Medical Licensing Examination. The results also showed the perception of podiatry in a positive light, with approximately 80% of respondents agreeing that the term doctor is applicable when referring to a podiatrist. Respondents with a physician relative were more likely to rate podiatry's role in health care higher on a scale from 0 (inessential) to 5 (equivalent to MDs/DOs) than those without a physician relative.
The results of this preliminary survey were generally positive and optimistic while also identifying some misconceptions regarding MS perceptions of podiatric medical training and scope of practice. Further studies are needed to evaluate perceptions of podiatry from the perspective of other members of the health-care team to improve interprofessional relations and understanding.