Ensuring an adequate number of highly qualified applicants to the colleges of podiatric medicine is a critical goal to ensure the future vitality of the profession. Many stakeholders play a role in helping to generate awareness of careers in podiatry and ultimately recruiting students to apply—from APMA to the American Association of Colleges of Podiatric Medicine (AACPM) to individual colleges and physicians.
APMA in the past led a coordinated student recruitment effort, driving significant growth in the numbers of applicants in the early 2000s. In 2011, APMA hosted a summit during which stakeholders determined that student recruitment was properly the role of AACPM, while APMA should continue to promote career awareness through its various marketing and communications activities.
In recent cycles, however, the profession has seen a decline in applications that has prompted a swift response.
By the time strong concerns about a decreased student applicant pool were raised at the 2016 APMA House of Delegates meeting, APMA leadership had already discussed the issue at its winter board meeting and made plans to investigate further.
APMA met with representatives of AACPM. Meeting participants agreed to focus on clarifying to undergraduates how to become a podiatrist and the benefits of pursuing the profession.
APMA hosted a day-long stakeholder meeting in Baltimore. Participants included representatives of AACPM, the American Board of Foot and Ankle Surgery, the American College of Foot & Ankle Orthopedics & Medicine, the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons, the American Podiatric Medical Students’ Association, and the American Society of Podiatric Surgeons, along with representatives of most of the colleges of podiatric medicine and many component societies. The stakeholders reviewed current efforts, the applicant pool and goals, obstacles and new ideas, as well as roles and responsibilities. At the conclusion of the meeting, AACPM and APMA committed to continuing to partner on career promotion, with AACPM taking the lead in developing a comprehensive, long-term strategic plan for promoting careers in podiatry.
The APMA 2017 House of Delegates passed Resolution 17-17, directing APMA to continue to make career awareness a high priority by collaborating with AACPM and investing staff time and budget in career awareness efforts.
APMA launched its #OperateLikeAGirl campaign, highlighting surgical careers in podiatry and appealing to female students interested in careers in health care. The campaign features images of APMA members and their own personal reflections about their careers and why podiatry is the right field for them.
APMA has a formal communications plan around career awareness in place for 2016–17. In addition to the #OperateLikeAGirl campaign, the plan leverages existing public education campaigns and vehicles to target prospective students and their families with messages about careers in podiatry. Career awareness messages were incorporated into our November 2016 Diabetes Awareness Month campaign, as well as our April 2017 Foot Health Awareness Month campaign, and we include regular, weekly career awareness posts on our social media channels. We also invest significantly in advertising and promoted social media around careers in podiatry.
APMA also encourages members to lend their time and energy to AACPM’s recruitment activities. Many students report they became interested in podiatry after a personal interaction with a physician, whether as a patient, family member, or student. AACPM is working to build a nationwide mentor network to accommodate students interested in shadowing a podiatrist. If you’re interested in becoming a mentor, visit the APMA booth (#1027), the AACPM Booth (#1608), or the information table near registration. You may also visit www.dpmnetwork.org/membership/become-a-mentor/.
The collaborative energy around promoting careers in podiatric medicine is a great example of how our profession can come together and tackle challenges cooperatively. If you have questions about career awareness or how to lend your support to APMA’s and AACPM’s efforts, contact Mandy Nau, career promotion strategist at AACPM, at email@example.com.