Learn how real students navigate their way through the medical school admissions process and med school itself with our What Is Medical School Really Like? series.
Meet Diksha and Yona of @thedpmjourney. These third-year podiatric med students and YouTubers share insight into what makes podiatry unique.
Yona and Diksha, thank you for sharing your story with us!
What attracted you to the field of podiatry?
TheDPMJourney: We love the diversity that podiatry offers – it’s not just looking at the anatomy of the foot and ankle. It incorporates every subject you can imagine – dermatology, vascular, musculoskeletal, neurology, etc. It offers a work–life balance with the choice of having a more rigorous schedule if you so choose. Every podiatrist is a trained surgeon in the U.S., but we also have the choice of never practicing surgery again if we don’t desire to after residency. We highly appreciate the idea that we have a conservative approach to treating patients and that we do our best to exhaust the conservative options first and foremost. Related to that, both of us were looking for a specialty in which we could develop a relationship with our patients, and podiatry affords us the ability to establish rapport throughout our time with our patients. Also, if an individual is accepted into a podiatric medical school, they are guaranteed to become a podiatric physician.
Which podiatry school do you attend? What do you enjoy about your program?
TheDPMJourney: We attend California School of Podiatric Medicine (CSPM). What we love about our program is first, we have early clinical rotations that we start at the beginning of our second year. Usually, clinical rotations start during the third year in other podiatric medical schools. This is a great learning experience because we apply our early academic knowledge into clinical-based settings. Additionally, our class sizes are around 50 students, which translates into each student building stronger personal relationships with other students and the professors. We find that our professors are able to accommodate every student’s needs. Lastly, our campus has an impressive research lab known as the Motion Analysis Research Center (MARC). The lab is run by two PhD professors who work on both faculty and student-based research projects, which is attractive for students who want to work on their own original research proposals.
Did you apply to podiatry school together? If so, how did that affect the application process?
TheDPMJourney: We did not apply to podiatry school together. We actually met each other during the first semester of podiatric medical school and became good friends then.
What does a typical day look like for you?
TheDPMJourney: As third-year podiatric medical students, we have clinics on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Clinics usually start around 8 a.m. and typically last till 5 p.m. We work out right after and eat. We then either work on modules, create presentations for our attendings, or study any concepts we need to brush up on, whether it’s from clinic or from previous courses/rotation resources. With the rest of the time we have, we study material from our current courses.
On Thursdays, we have classes from 8 a.m. till 5 p.m. The current classes we are taking are: dermatology, public health, jurisprudence, podiatric trauma, and pediatrics.
How has COVID-19 affected your program? Have you been able to experience rotations in the way you’d hoped?
TheDPMJourney: Most of our rotations have not been drastically affected, because we still rotate through our local hospitals treating patients and learning from our attendings. Currently, we are on our general medicine rotation that is being taught online, but we will be able to meet with our attending in a few days to learn the pertinent hands-on skills. Our experience overall hasn’t been short of our expectations. It has made us more aware of our surroundings and how we have to carefully approach patients. If anything, we have had a busier lifestyle, because there were plenty of patients who felt unsafe going to hospitals for routine care in the beginning of COVID-19, who are now coming in requiring more treatment and care for more critical cases.
From interviews with podiatry students at several U.S. schools, to suggestions for study materials, your Instagram page and YouTube videos provide a wealth of information for premeds and students! Why is it important to you to “inform and empower” future podiatrists?
TheDPMJourney: When we were applying to podiatric medical school, we did not know much about the field of podiatry due to the lack of resources covering the field. There is a vast amount of information about other healthcare fields, but not so much for podiatry. We fell in love with podiatry through giving it a chance with our shadowing experiences, witnessing the conservative approaches and the personal relationships that podiatrists develop with their patients. We want prospective students to understand that there is an alternative route to the classic MD/DO route if you have a passion for becoming a physician while also knowing that you want to specialize in the foot and ankle region. Additionally, there are a lot of misconceptions about podiatry, one being that we aren’t really doctors. That can dissuade students from applying to podiatry while also brewing up a negative stigma that some people hold against our profession. We want to make it clear that we go through four years of medical school, taking the same didactic classes (with the exception of OMM), and completing almost identical clinical rotations as typical MD/DO students, but with additional courses and unique rotations dedicated to our specialty. We also go through a three-year surgical-based residency and have the option of pursuing a fellowship.
How do you make time for exercise and a balanced lifestyle, while managing a grueling curriculum?
TheDPMJourney: A habit that Diksha and I have is sitting down together and creating a weekly schedule with our different priorities for that week and piecing together where we can incorporate exercise, social media, studying, etc. For instance, we try to meal prep for the whole week, by cooking for two hours on a Sunday. Additionally, we try to spend a few hours on Sunday preparing whatever content we want to share on social media, so that way we don’t have to think about it as much as we go through our rotations and studying for classes. Having solid time-management skills will allow you to accomplish more of what you WANT done. A podiatrist gave me the best advice about that: When scheduling, place self-care activities, sleep, etc. in first before work. Those are non-negotiables so that you can show up your best for your patients, courses, classmates, and attendings.
What do residency and fellowship typically look like for DPM grads?
TheDPMJourney: After four years of medical school, residency training for podiatry is an additional three to four years.
Since it is often a three-year residency, you will be a PGY-1 (Post-Graduate Year 1, or Intern), PGY-2, and then PGY-3. Some residency programs are four years.
Residency training provides clinical and surgical experiences. Graduates choose a 36–48-month residency that includes training in rear foot and ankle surgery.
A residency provides rotations such as anesthesiology, internal medicine, infectious disease, surgery, ER and orthopedics, and vascular.
First year is mostly on-service that varies from two to six months depending on the program. Also, off-service includes non-podiatry rotations, such as the ones mentioned in the above paragraph.
Second year varies, but most of the months are spent on-service rotating through different hospitals and exclusively doing clinic work, surgery, and seeing consults in the hospital and the emergency hospital.
Third year is mostly spent on-service and varies program to program.
We will apply for residency when we are fourth-years. In the next month, we are applying to externships for our sub-internship year, when we go to different residency programs for one month each, learning more about the program as well as doing hands-on training. This is how the student and the program evaluate how well you mesh during your fourth year, when matching with a specific residency program.
What are your top three tips for podiatry applicants?
TheDPMJourney: First, make sure you shadow a podiatrist to determine if it’s the medical profession you want to pursue. Podiatry is a specific niche of medicine, and you don’t want to find yourself three years into podiatric medical school and backing out, because you realize that this isn’t something you can see yourself doing. You also cannot simply switch specialties. As of right now, if you desire another specialty, you have to reapply – this time to DO/MD medical schools.
Second, understand that podiatric medical school is “medical school.” Don’t underestimate the workload, because you will be tried and tested, and you must be mentally prepared to do whatever it takes to succeed. If you know you are definitely unable to handle a heavy science course-load, this should definitely not be seen as a back-up for another healthcare program.
This leads us to our third tip, which is to develop the habit of time management. Time management will not only make you a more successful student and individual, but it will reduce stress, give you free time, and open up more opportunities for you!
Do you have questions for Diksha and Yona? Questions for us? Do you want to be featured in our next “What Is Medical School Really Like?” post? Know someone else who you’d love to see featured? Are there questions you’d like us to ask our students in this series? LET US KNOW!
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