Choosing a Doctor

Choosing a Doctor FAQs

Below where some of the most frequently asked questions and concerns presented to us by our patients concerning our office and their care.  Specific information about orthopaedic foot and hand conditions may be found under Resources or Important Links.

  1. How do I choose a doctor?
  2. What is specialty fellowship training?
  3. What is a hand surgeon?
  4. What is the difference between an orthopaedic foot and ankle surgeon and a podiatrist?
  5. What is board certification?
  6. What is the CAQ?

Patients choose their doctor in many ways-some good, some bad; some reliable, some not. Patients have different priorities when they make their choice-skill and training, location and ease of scheduling, physician personality/demeanor and the patient- physician relationship, or insurance coverage (in or out of network).

Often patients receive word of mouth testimonials from a previously treated patient or relative, seek advice from healthcare professionals they know or receive a referral from their family physician.

Below or some of the many factors we consider important to consider in making your decision.

Academic Credentials

Generally the more extensive and specific training a physician has in the area concerning your problem and the more current your physician keeps this training through regular updates, the better equipped the physician is to diagnose and treat your condition. Years of experience and experience with your particular problem are important also. Do not be afraid to ask your physician about their training in your specific problem and experience in treating it. To see Dr. Bowman’s academic credentials, go to Physicians and Staff.

What is Specialty Fellowship Training?

Orthopaedic surgeons must complete 4 to 5 years of general orthopaedic residency training at an approved University program after completing one to two years of internship and residency in a general surgery training program. This training prepares the physician to diagnose and treat a broad range of common musculoskeletal problems with hands on training.

Orthopaedic Fellowships are additional very specialized training at centers of excellence that concentrate on treating unique and very difficult problems in a very narrow part of orthopaedic surgery. The physician will gain hands on skills in the diagnosis and treatment of such difficult problems.

Dr. Bowman is one of a unique small handful of orthopaedic surgeons in the country who has completed both a fellowship in hand surgery and foot and ankle surgery. You may find other fellowship trained hand surgeons or foot and ankle surgeons in the Western Pennsylvania area at or

What is a Hand Surgeon?

A hand surgeon is a physician who specializes in treating disorders of the fingers, hand, wrist and elbow.  Most hand surgeons in the United States are orthopaedic surgeons, general surgeons or plastic surgeons who have completed a hand surgery fellowship after their initial training.  Most hand surgeons perform only hand surgery, although some also practice general orthopaedic surgery or plastic surgery.  It is appropriate to ask your physician what percentage of their practice is hand surgery.

Dr. Bowman limits his practice to your elbow, wrist, hand, foot and ankle due to his dual fellowship training .We do not treat hip, back ,knee or shoulder problems but are happy to refer you, if you are our patient, to an orthopaedic surgeon who specializes in that area.

What are Board Certification and the CAQ?

After completion of a 5-year residency in orthopaedic surgery at a university training program accredited by the American Board of Medical Specialties, orthopaedic surgeons must take a two-part very difficult, comprehensive certification examination given by the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery.  Passage of this examination determines that the orthopaedic surgeon is “Board Certified” in orthopaedic surgery. In addition to becoming Board Certified, orthopaedic surgeons must now update their education through regular CME (continuing medical education) courses and retake the ABOS recertification examination every 10 years.

For hand surgeons the highest certification that a doctor can have is the CAQ (Certification of Added Qualification). This requires completing a hand surgery fellowship and taking an additional, more detailed test in just hand surgery, administered jointly by the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery, the American Board of General Surgery and the American Board of Plastic Surgery. The certificate of added qualification must also be renewed every 10 years

Dr. Bowman is Board Certified in orthopaedic surgery and has completed the CAQ. He recently recertified in both in 2009.

What is the Difference Between an Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Surgeon and a Podiatrist?

This is a controversial and sometimes political issue.  Generally M.D.s go through 4 years of medical school accredited by the American Committee on Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) after completing 4 years of undergraduate college study. Medical students gain experience in all medical specialties with hands on experience.  Orthopaedic surgeons then complete a one to two year general surgery internship and residency to learn general surgical skills and the ability to care for severely ill or multiply traumatized patients, as well provide care for serious postoperative complications such as respiratory, cardiac or kidney failure, implant failure or infection.  They then complete a 3 to 4 year orthopaedic surgery residency to learn a broad range of orthopaedic problems requiring hands-on surgical training and learning nonsurgical treatment.  After orthopaedic residency, an orthopaedic foot and ankle specialist will spend an additional fellowship year at an approved center of excellence, learning to diagnose and treat rare and advanced problems of the foot and ankle.

Podiatrists attend Podiatry School for 4 years after college for 3 to 4 years.  They do not attend medical school.  Some podiatrists will then start practice with little actual surgical experience.  Some will pursue an additional 1, 2 or 3 years of surgical training with hands-on surgical experience.  In many states the ability of podiatrists to practice and perform surgical procedures is not determined by the amount of training, but rather by legislative action.

There are at least 5 Boards of podiatric surgery.  Some require surgical experience.  Some don’t. The American Board of Podiatric Surgery requires surgical experience and examination for certification. Some older podiatrists were “grandfathered” in by the American Board of Podiatric Surgery without the requirement of additional surgical training.

Thus, there are great differences in the training and treatment skills of Podiatrists.  Some are quite well-trained and some have minimal training. Please inquire about the training, certification and experience of your Podiatrist.

When asked, I explain that the difference between an orthopaedic foot and ankle specialist and a podiatrist is 4-7 years of training.  Know who is treating you.

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