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issue Winter 2023

‘Chiropodists’ Answered the Call in World War II

By Kelly Reiss
Photos from 1942 illustrates foot care at Great Lakes Naval Station.

The Chiropody Record (1917–1989) provides a window into the activities and support of podiatric practitioners in World War II. The monthly periodical was published at Illinois College of Chiropody (now the Dr. William M. Scholl College of Podiatric Medicine) until 1955 and locally thereafter, providing scientific articles related to foot care, the college’s programs and alumni activities, obituaries, and ads for equipment, practices, products and even War Bonds. It was a well-known scientific publication within the profession.

During the wartime period, some serving in the military wrote letters to the editors, hoping to connect with colleagues and friends, and the journal regularly connected alumni, faculty and students in service through lists of addresses.

“During the 1940s, Illinois College of Chiropody enrollment jumped from its lowest prior to the war to one of its highest post-war.”

Chiropodists, or podiatric practitioners, and students were not eligible for draft deferment, and many were placed into the U.S. Army Medical Service Corps units to provide foot care for the enlisted men and women. They were not awarded a rank as a commissioned officer, despite being in the same units to provide specialty care as other professions with a commissioned rank, like pharmacists, nurses, dentists and veterinarians. The U.S. Army would create a rank for podiatric physicians in 1957.

The Navy and Coast Guard were more progressive in allowing podiatric practitioners to be commissioned, and by the end of the war, the Navy had approximately 80 officers to provide care to their members. Their rank was Pharmacists’ Mate, First, Second or Third Class. William Stickel, DSc 1924, then dean at Illinois College of Chiropody, championed the creation of this title in 1936, given its potential for chiropodists.

During the 1940s, Illinois College of Chiropody enrollment jumped from its lowest prior to the war to one of its highest post-war. This was likely influenced by the decision, which came after much lobbying, that student veterans were able to utilize the GI Benefits toward the college when schools of podiatric medicine were reclassified as institutions of higher learning. Notices of how to utilize the benefits were published in the Chiropody Record.

Kelly Reiss is director of the Rosalind Franklin University Archives and the Feet First Exhibition. RFU Collections Management Librarian Chelsea Eidbo, MLIS, contributed to this article.

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