A Visit to the California School of Podiatric Medicine at Samuel Merritt College
Sitting at lunch at our hotel at Jack London Square in Oakland, several other preprofessional health advisors and I were asked what we had learned from our trip to Samuel Merritt College California School of Podiatric Medicine. For many of us, it was that the advantages of a career in podiatry are well-kept secrets. Perhaps visiting the school and brainstorming with my colleagues sparked memories of marketing classes I had taken in the past, but I found myself developing the following ad campaign:
“Today I performed surgery, saved the leg of a woman with diabetes, worked with an athlete, prescribed medicine for a skin condition, and treated a child with a clubfoot--
--- I am a podiatrist.”
On future consideration, I might add, “…and was able to get home at a decent hour to be with my family!”
One of our tour guides was a student who could have been one I had advised a few years before. Although he was passionate about medicine, his freshman and sophomore grades as an undergraduate reflected the immaturity and lack of focus that often accompany young people as they leave home and high school for the first time. By the time he had gotten his act together, he had too many units to significantly change his GPA. His MCAT scores were not terrible, but with the number of students applying to medical school with excellent numbers, he found himself at the end of the application season with no acceptances to medical school. Now he considers himself lucky that he found podiatry because he feels he can have more time for life outside of his career.
“But feet?” I can hear my students say, “how can he stand to work on feet all day?” To my similar question he shot back, “How can someone stand to be a proctologist?”
What is unique about a career that deals with a specific body area (dentistry also comes to mind) is that there are so many types of medical challenges that can occur. There is a great deal of overlap between orthopedic surgery and podiatry, and podiatrists do operate on the lower extremities and may work in practices with orthopedic surgeons. On the other hand (er, foot?), they can practice as dermatologists treating skin conditions. Many podiatrists work in sports medicine, since the lower extremities can make or break an athlete’s game. Podiatrists work with all ages. Saving the leg of a person with diabetes or repairing a child’s birth defect or studying an athlete’s gait means podiatrists work with all age groups.
So how does a person who has always set their sights on medicine check out podiatry? First I would suggest finding a podiatrist and asking to visit or shadow her or him. The folks at the California School of Podiatric Medicine will be sending me a list of names of alumni in our area, or you can call the college yourself. Further investigation would involve a trip to the school. If you decide to apply (and you can still apply this year for the fall!) I understand the school may pay some of your travel expenses, but this means first submitting an application through the podiatric school application service (AACPMAS) by the July 31 deadline. You can actually apply to the six podiatric schools that participate though this application, which can be obtained at www.aacpm.org
Oakland’s Samuel Merritt College is in Oakland, with both clinics and a private practice used by podiatric residents in San Francisco. The campus and facilities are comparable to any medical school with libraries, small classrooms, lecture halls, a gross anatomy lab and computer labs. Dorms are integrated with the campus. The gardens are lovely and décor is simple, but tasteful.
Maximum class size is 48, so there is plenty of personal attention. Students learn about the entire human body before concentrating on the lower extremities, so anatomy involves the brain as well as the feet.
I was particularly impressed with the facilities in San Francisco for the upper classmen. Although students do get some clinical experience right away, third and fourth year students can work in a clinic for lower-income patients as well as in a rather posh private practice run by three professors in a San Francisco hospital.
For details on tuition and admissions requirements, check the web page at http://www.samuelmerritt.edu/ --Oh, if you like San Francisco, Oakland is only a ferryboat ride or a trip on the Bay Area Rapid Transit line away!
Approaching San Franciso on the Oakland Ferry