APMA Hot Topic: Student Recruitment | News | APMA
APMA Hot Topic: Student Recruitment

July 11, 2019

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Hot Topic: Student Recruitment

During the 2018 House of Delegates meeting in March, delegates approved Resolution 9-18 on Student Recruitment, which directed APMA to devote staff and budget to address student recruitment and support the creation of an adequate pool of qualified applicants.

Since that time, APMA has published a detailed strategic and tactical communications plan and is working to execute that plan in collaboration with a variety of stakeholders within the profession.

The first step was to conduct an exhaustive research study to understand audiences, opportunities, and challenges. APMA worked with Edge Research, a nationally known and respected research firm that has supported other health-care professions in student recruitment efforts. The study, completed in the fall of 2018, uncovered important information to guide the profession’s efforts in fostering increased and higher-quality applications.

Audience Attributes

The study showed the prospective students most likely to be interested in careers in podiatry were younger (high school-age students rather than undergraduates), outgoing, and open-minded. They demonstrated interest in work–life balance, as well as the variety that podiatry offers: the opportunity to work in different practice settings and subspecialties. Providing immediate relief for pain and discomfort and spending quality time with patients also ranked highly among prospects interested in podiatry.

Prospects had some significant gaps in understanding about podiatric medicine and surgery that offer important opportunities for education:

  • A full 70 percent of students did not understand that podiatric medical school is a separate educational path from allopathic or osteopathic medical school.
  • Many prospects were unaware of the variety of patients and conditions podiatrists treat.
  • Prospects often were unaware or confused about the opportunity podiatry affords to perform surgery.

Accessing Information

Unsurprisingly, most prospects reported they use digital resources to learn more about careers. Most start with popular search engines like Google, meaning that search engine optimization—the process of optimizing our online content so that it appears at or near the top of search results, whether through paid advertising or organic efforts—will play an important role in the success of any student recruitment effort.

While prospects also are heavy users of social media platforms, only 22 percent reported using it to research careers. Social media platforms, while important to our general educational efforts, likely will have to be used strategically to engage prospective students in other materials.

Word of mouth from teachers, family and friends, and counselors was also a key method of reaching prospects. Early exposure to podiatry through a personal medical experience, a family member’s medical experience, or a mentoring experience, was a critical factor in choices to pursue podiatry as a career, meaning engaging prospective students to interact with a mentor will be a top goal for recruitment efforts.

Ongoing Activity

Per Resolution 9-18, APMA has sought additional funding from the profession for the proposed strategic recruitment campaign. So far, financial support remains nearly $200,000 short of the proposed budget. With the limited budget, APMA is pursuing key priorities from the plan:

  • Development of an informational website about careers in podiatric medicine and surgery, designed to be unbranded, informational, and linked to the American Association of Colleges of Podiatric Medicine (AACPM) Application Service. This website will deliver on prospects’ preferred digital format for gathering information about health-care careers.
  • Search engine optimization (both paid and organic) for that website, designed to bring the website to the top of Google and other searches for information about health careers in general and podiatry specifically.
  • Improvements and enhancements to the DPM Mentor Network, which APMA will take over from AACPM. This tactic is designed to ensure the in-person access to mentors that the study identified as so valuable to prospective students.
  • Limited digital advertising and promoted social media. While the current budget will not allow for significant advertising, APMA will target prospective students as well as families and educators with promoted social media and retargeted ads to draw them to more in-depth information about careers in podiatry.
  • A profession-wide audit of existing recruitment materials with the goal of developing a coordinated and cohesive set of messages grounded in the outcomes of our research and a coherent brand that can be used by all stakeholders.
  • The development of a limited stakeholder toolkit with materials that can be used at recruitment events, career fairs, and in other engagements with prospective students.
  • Engagement of a stakeholder steering group to help guide our efforts.

Friday, July 12, at The National, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., prospective students from Salt Lake City and the surrounding area will be on hand for the second annual Step Into Podiatry event. During this event they'll have the opportunity to interact with current podiatric medical students, participate in a hands-on cadaveric suture workshop, tour the exhibit hall, and learn more about the profession.

We encourage every podiatrist to be a part of the recruitment effort. Visit a local career fair or your child’s school. Post information to your website and social media accounts about your exciting career. And sign up to become a mentor at www.dpmnetwork.org. Thank you for your support of the future of podiatric medicine and surgery!

Progress on Resolution 9-18

Since the passage of Resolution 9-18, APMA has:

  • developed and published a comprehensive strategic plan around student recruitment, along with an accompanying budget;
  • contracted with a national research firm to complete an exhaustive qualitative and quantitative study among prospective students, current students, and admissions personnel at the colleges;
  • published the findings of the study to the profession;
  • published a detailed tactical plan based on the findings to supplement the earlier strategic plan;
  • held regular stakeholder calls with the profession;
  • worked closely with the American Association of Colleges of Podiatric Medicine and other key stakeholders to advance ongoing student recruitment efforts; and
  • launched the Step Into Podiatry recruitment event taking place for the second year in a row here at the National.

APMA has devoted significant staff and financial resources to this initiative, outstripping its 2018–19 budget and committing another $50,000 plus staff time in 2019–20. APMA has reached out to the other stakeholders identified in Resolution 9-18 to seek financial support for its efforts, including the development of recruitment materials, advertising, member toolkits, and more. APMA will continue to report to and engage members regularly as its efforts unfold.


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