Podiatrist vs. Orthopedist: Who Should Do Your Foot or Ankle Surgery?
Posted by Jenn F. on Monday, February 8th, 2016
The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine is staffed by sports medicine doctors, podiatrists, and board-certified podiatric surgeons. Surgery is rarely the first course of action, but when you require a more invasive procedure to heal pain or restore function, you want to know that you’re in the best possible hands. You may have noticed that there are several different health care practitioners who handle injuries to the foot and ankle. Physicians, podiatrists, and physical therapists can all evaluate an injury for you, but when it comes down to surgery, you can seek a referral to a podiatric surgeon or an orthopedic surgeon.
What Is an Orthopedic Surgeon?
An orthopedic surgeon is a medical doctor specializing in the entire musculoskeletal system from head to toe. As such, they are qualified to diagnose, treat, rehabilitate, and help prevent injuries or diseases in the musculoskeletal system. Some orthopedic surgeons choose areas of further specialization such as the foot and ankle.
To receive board certification, an orthopedic surgeon must have:
- 4 years of undergrad school
- 4 years of accredited medical schooling
- 5 years of general residency training
- 1 year of optional fellowship in a specialty area
Orthopedic surgeons have a substantial medical background but spend less time specifically devoted to the foot and ankle. A study by the Resident Education Committee of the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society found that the majority of orthopedic residents had 12 weeks of foot and ankle training. Researchers also discovered that “a large number of residency programs do not have a faculty member committed to foot and ankle education, and almost one-third have no time specifically allocated to foot and ankle education.”
What Is a Podiatric Surgeon?
By comparison, a podiatrist is a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine specializing in foot and ankle disorders. They, too, are qualified to diagnose, treat, rehabilitate, and prevent injuries to the lower extremities.
To become a board-certified podiatric surgeon, one must complete:
- 4 years of undergrad school
- 4 years of accredited podiatric medical school
- 3-4 years of foot and ankle residency training
Podiatrists spend over half of their final two years in podiatry school focused on foot and ankle conditions. One-year podiatric residencies focus at least half the year on foot and ankle training, with three-year podiatric residencies dedicating 104 weeks to foot and ankle education. Much attention is also paid to biomechanics, foot balance, orthotics, custom shoe education, brace technology and how the feet affect other systems in the body. Not surprisingly, 39% of patients choose podiatric surgeons, whereas 15% choose orthopedic surgeons. (The remaining percentage seek counsel from a family doctor or other health care professional.)
About Dr. Geldwert
The founder of The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine — Dr. Josef Geldwert — completed his undergraduate training at Yeshiva University. He went on to earn his Doctorate of Podiatric Medicine from the New York College of Podiatric Medicine in 1973. His podiatric surgical residency was completed at Northlake Community Hospital in Northlake, Illinois. Dr. Geldwert maintains certification in foot and ankle surgery from the American Board of Podiatric Surgery and fellowships with the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons, American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine, and American Society of Podiatric Surgeons.
Although his credentials are impressive and his experience vast, the best way to know for sure if he’s the right surgeon for your needs is to request a one-on-one consultation. Ultimately, you want to choose a surgeon you feel comfortable with, who answers all your questions with knowledge and courtesy, and someone whose demeanor will encourage you every step of the way. Foot and ankle surgery is among the most difficult types of surgery to recover from because your whole mobility and way of life are so dramatically impacted. Contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine’s Manhattan or Westchester office to schedule a no-obligation meeting.
If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine. Dr. Josef J. Geldwert, Dr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.