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Podiatry is a branch of medicine devoted to the study, diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the foot, ankle and lower leg.
The term "podiatry" came into use first in the early 20th century in United States, where it now denotes a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM), also known as a podiatric physician or surgeon who is qualified by their education and training to diagnose and treat conditions affecting the foot, ankle and related structures of the leg.
Within the field of podiatry, practitioners can focus on many different specialty areas, including surgery, sports medicine, biomechanics, geriatrics, pediatrics, orthopedics or primary care.
Instead of Podiatry, the older title of "chiropodist" may still be used in many English-speaking countries, by some clinicians which is gradually falling out of use.
The professional care of feet was in existence in ancient Egypt as evidenced by bas-relief carvings at the entrance to Ankmahor's tomb dating from about 2400 BC where work on hands and feet is depicted.
Until the turn of the 20th century, chiropodists—now known as podiatrists—were separate from organized medicine. They were independently licensed physicians who treated the feet, ankles and related leg structures.
The first society of chiropodists, now known as podiatrists, was established in—and still operates in—New York in 1895 as NYSPMA, with the first school opening in 1911.
While the majority of podiatric physicians are in solo practice, there has been a movement toward larger group practices as well as the use of podiatrists in multi-specialty groups including orthopedic groups, treating diabetes, or in multi-specialty orthopedic surgical groups.
Within the scope of practice, podiatrists are one of two types of experts on foot and ankle care (the other type are orthopedic surgeons, a type of medical doctor). Some podiatrists have primarily surgical practices. Some specialists complete additional fellowship training in reconstruction of the foot and ankle. Most podiatrists utilize medical, orthopedic, biomechanical and surgical practices. Surgical podiatric principles rest on a base of orthopedic and kinesthetic knowledge.
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