Q: I recently visited a podiatrist and was quite fascinated by her work. I wanted to know more about the career and the universities that offer it.

Podiatry is a field of medical science dedicated to the treatment of foot and lower limb disorders. A podiatrist is to the foot as a dentist is to teeth. A podiatrist is qualified not only to diagnose the problem but also to perform surgery, administer medicine and if required prescribe physical therapy.

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Most of us are not aware that the foot is usually the first part of the human body to emit signals about serious malfunctioning – be it diabetes or heart or kidney diseases. In that respect a podiatrist performs an extremely important preventive function.

A fractured foot or an ingrown toenail requires a soft, skilful but firm hand to diagnose and cure the ailment. A podiatric specialist would analyse the X-rays and lab tests to conclude if surgery is necessary or if physiotherapy would suffice. In addition to foot conditions like ingrown toenails, athlete’s foot or diabetic foot ulcers a podiatric physician would also treat joint alignment problem, which is the main cause of back and spinal issues. There is a continual demand for this profession due to sports injuries or injuries at the workplace or merely the ramifications on the body due to a sedentary lifestyle.

A strong academic background in natural sciences at the school level, particularly biology and chemistry, would be a prerequisite. Skill-sets such as critical thinking, compassion and strong interpersonal communication are important for this profession. Successful treatment can make a significant difference to the lifestyle and quality of life of a patient.

Although not the most common subject, podiatry is offered by universities across the globe. University of Huddersfield, UK, offers a Podiatry BSc course, which is comprehensive and industry-specific. It includes hands-on experience using the fully equipped podiatry clinic, bio-mechanics gait analysis equipment, orthotics lab and surgical theatre.

Leicester, Brighton, Cardiff Metropolitan, Southampton, East London and Durham are other universities that also offer degrees in podiatry. University of Valencia, Spain, offers a four-year bachelor’s degree course in podiatry with theory as well as practical knowledge with a professional edge.

In the US, Temple University, New York College of Podiatric Medicine, Kent State and Barry would be some of the popular schools offering a degree in podiatry.

Similar to medicine, podiatric medical schools require applicants to take the MCAT test. However, as these schools get fewer applicants than traditional medical schools, admission tends to be easier.

Sanjeev Verma is an international education counsellor (sanjeev@intelligentpartners.com, www.intelligentpartners.com). Got a problem? Our fantastic panel of renowned experts is available to answer all your questions related to fashion, well-being, nutrition, finance and hypnotherapy. Email your queries to friday@gulfnews.com.