Do you have questions about your doctor, your care, and how to know where to go for your next appointment? You’re not alone! To help people like you, we’ve collected some of the most frequently asked questions and concerns our patients bring up concerning our office, their care, and the backgrounds of their care team.  These include:

  • How Do I Choose a Doctor?
  • What are The Doctor’s Academic Credentials?
  • Did the Doctor Go Through Specialty Fellowship Training?
  • What is a Hand Surgeon?
  • What are Board Certifications and the CAQ?
  • What is the Difference Between an Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Surgeon and a Podiatrist?

(The following questions have to do with more generalized information. Note that additional, more specific information about orthopaedic foot and hand conditions may be found under Resources or Important Links.)

How Do I Choose a Doctor?

There are a number of things patients should consider when selecting their doctor(s), including:

  • the skill and training of a care team
  • the location of a practice
  • the ease of scheduling / standard wait time for appointments
  • the primary physician’s personality/demeanor
  • the strength of a pre-existing patient-physician relationship
  • the availability of insurance coverage (i.e. is a doctor in or out of network)

As part of their selection process, patients may also receive word-of-mouth testimonials from a previously treated patient or relative; seek advice from healthcare professionals they know; receive a referral from their family physician; or research local care options online.

These are some of the more generalized parts of the information gathering process, however. Below or some additional factors and questions we recommend considering when selecting a doctor.

 

What are The Doctor’s Academic Credentials?

Generally speaking, patients should seek out care from a physician that has extensive and specific training in the area concerning your health and pain points. Ideally, that physician will also seek out educational opportunities that expand on their current knowledge bases. Years of experience, especially experience with your particular problem, are important as well. 

As part of your selection process, do not be afraid to ask your physician about their training and medical experiences to date. To see Dr. Bowman’s academic credentials, go to his profile.
 

Did the Doctor Go Through Specialty Fellowship Training?

All 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, however, follow residency and offer 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 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 assh.org or aofas.org.
 

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. However we are happy to refer you (if you are our patient) to an orthopaedic surgeon who specializes in that area.
 

What are Board Certifications 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 comprehensive and difficult 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:

M.D.s

Generally, M.D.s go through 4 years of medical education at a school accredited by the American Committee on Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). Note that medical school takes place after completing 4 years of undergraduate college study as well.

As part of their education, medical students gain experience in all medical specialties with hands-on opportunities to practice and grow as professionals. Orthopaedic surgeons then complete a one-to-two-year general surgery internship and residency to learn general surgical skills; the ability to care for severely ill or multiply traumatized patients; and how to 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 about a broad range of orthopaedic problems, each requiring hands-on surgical training and learning nonsurgical treatment.

Finally, 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

Podiatrists attend Podiatry School for 4 years after college for a total of 3 to 4 years. They do not attend medical school. Some podiatrists will then start to practice, although with little actual surgical experience. Others will pursue an additional 1 to 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 their training background, but rather by legislative action.

There are currently 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. With that in mind, we encourage patients to 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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