Associate Professor Caroline Robinson is the Associate Head School of Allied Health, Exercise and Sports Sciences (SAHESS) and the Sub Dean Learning and Teaching, Faculty of Science and Health, Charles Sturt University (CSU). Caroline has a particular interest in healthy ageing, First Nations curriculum, and pharmacology. Caroline is the inaugural Chair of the Australasian Council of Podiatry Deans, collaborating with the Podiatry Program Leaders in Australia and New Zealand to provide an important voice for podiatry educators and enabling a coordinated approach to education initiatives and issues that affect podiatry courses and student education. 

What has been happening recently in and around the ACPD?

At this time of year, universities across Australia and New Zealand have recently welcomed a new cohort of podiatry students. A majority of these new students are graduates from high school and a small minority are non-school leavers (formerly known as ‘mature-aged’ students).

The approximate intake across the eight active undergraduate podiatry programs in Australia is 280 students. 

It is concerning that podiatry continues to attract a much smaller number of new students than other undergraduate allied health programs, and it’s not uncommon to have several aspiring physiotherapists in the class. Fortunately, these new students who thought physiotherapy was their path, tend to thrive in first year and realise that podiatry is a fascinating discipline with many and varied career paths.

 

 

Podiatry students, however, understand the need to educate family and friends about their career choice. It is important that we equip new students with the knowledge and language to explain that the word ‘podiatrist’ derives from the Greek words ‘pod’ – meaning foot – and ‘iatros’ – meaning physician. A ‘foot doctor’ is an essential member of any multi-disciplinary healthcare team, because good foot health enables mobility and physical activity to reduce the risk of chronic disease and enhance mental wellbeing.

All podiatrists should take an active role in advocacy for our discipline and promote podiatry as a possible career path not only to prospective students but also to the broader community. This is core business for academic staff in universities but we rely on our partners in industry to collaborate in building the future podiatry workforce.

Positive developments are underway, however, including the following updates.

  • The growth in the number of registered podiatrists from December 2020 to December 2021 was 5.2%, which was higher than the proportional increase in registered physiotherapists during the same period (3%).
  • The ACPD completed a cross-institutional pilot study in 2021, to understand undergraduate students’ choices to study podiatry. Dr Michelle Kaminski presented preliminary findings at the APodA’s, Australian Podiatry Conference 2021‘Why do people choose to study podiatry?’ The main study was launched early in 2022 to seek feedback from podiatry students and comparative data from other allied health students. These online forums are currently in progress and will provide valuable data about the factors which influence prospective students’ enrolment and career pathway choices.
  • The ACPD collaborated with the APodA in 2021 to develop a marketing strategy which will inform course promotion activity in universities this year. The APodA is responsible for the development of resources and campaign project management; podiatry departments will collaborate with the APodA to develop and co-brand assets for use in high schools and course marketing events.

 How can podiatrists support these developments?

  • Promote the Foot Health Australia site in online media and share public-facing assets developed by the APodA through your clinic and social networks.
  • Reach out to one or more of the podiatry schools to discuss opportunities to collaborate in student recruitment – it’s a great way to boost your CPD hours for the year!
  • Help to illustrate the holistic impact of podiatry in your local community by sharing news updates and other sources. As just one example, this news report shows that physical activity is often prescribed as a form of treatment to slow down the progression of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

What’s next on the horizon for the ACPD?

The ACPD will continue its work this year to advocate for podiatry at a national level, through the Chairs of Allied Health Councils joint forum. In addition to the work on student recruitment, ACPD members are collaborating on a range of projects including: 

  • The development of a national standardised clinical assessment tool
  • Inter-institutional benchmarking
  • Broadening the membership of ACPD
  • Enabling a competitive funding source for education-related research projects.

© Copyright 2021 The Australian Podiatry Association

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