What is an Internist?
Internists are Doctors of Internal Medicine and sometimes referred by terms including "internists," "general internists" , “doctors for adults” and "doctors of internal medicine."
Doctors of internal medicine focus on adult medicine and have had special study and training focusing on the prevention and treatment of adult diseases. At least three of their seven or more years of medical school and postgraduate training are dedicated to learning how to prevent, diagnose, and treat diseases that affect adults. Internists are sometimes referred to as the "doctor's doctor," because they are often called upon to act as consultants to other physicians to help solve puzzling diagnostic problems.
Internists are equipped to deal with whatever problem a patient brings -- no matter how common or rare, or how simple or complex. They are specially trained to solve puzzling diagnostic problems and can handle severe chronic illnesses and situations where several different illnesses may strike at the same time. They also bring to patients an understanding of wellness (disease prevention and the promotion of health), women's health, substance abuse, mental health, as well as effective treatment of common problems of the eyes, ears, skin, nervous system and reproductive organs.
In today's complex medical environment, internists take pride in caring for their patients for life -- in the office or clinic, during hospitalization and intensive care, and in nursing homes. When other medical specialists, such as surgeons or obstetricians, are involved, they coordinate their patient's care and manage difficult medical problems associated with that care.
Internists can choose to focus their practice on general internal medicine, or may take additional training to "subspecialize" in one of 13 areas of internal medicine. The training an internist receives to subspecialize in a particular medical area is both broad and deep. Subspecialty training (often called a "fellowship") usually requires an additional one to three years beyond the standard three year general internal medicine residency.
The 13 subspecialties of internal medicine that internists can subspecialize in after medical school include:
- Adolescent medicine
- Allergy and immunology
- Cardiology (heart)
- Endocrinology (diabetes and other glandular disorders)
- Gastroenterology (colon and intestinal tract)
- Geriatrics (care of the elderly)
- Hematology (blood)
- Infectious disease
- Nephrology (kidneys)
- Oncology (cancer)
- Pulmonology (lungs)
- Rheumatology (arthritis)
- Sports medicine
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