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Internal Medicine Print E-mail

Dr. Kennedy An internal medicine doctor is termed an Internist and holds a medical degree. Internists should not be confused with "Medical Interns," who are physicians in their first year of post-graduate training. Although Internists may act as primary care physicians, they are not General Practitioners, Family Practitioners, or Family Physicians. General Internists are skilled at treating a broad range of diseases affecting adults. Internal Medicine sub-specialists (see the list below) may also practice General Internal Medicine, but focus their practice on their particular sub-specialty which means having had an additional training period of 2-3 years. In the U.S., adult primary care is usually provided by either General Practitioners (mainly in rural areas), Family Practice physicians or General Internal Medicine physicians. The primary care of adolescents is usually provided by Family Practice, Internists and Pediatricians. The primary care of children and infants is provided by General Practice or Family Practice physicians or Pediatricians. As you can see, there is considerable overlap.

Internists are trained to solve puzzling complicated diagnostic problems and handle severe chronic illnesses where several disorders may be present simultaneously such as diabetes, vascular and heart disease and arthritis which often appear together. They also bring to patients an understanding of Preventive Medicine, substance abuse, mental health, as well as treatment of common problems of the eyes, ears, skin, nervous system and reproductive organs. Most older adults in the United States see an internist as their primary physician. Some internists offer alternative therapies but most remain in mainstream medicine.

Internists can focus their practice on General Internal Medicine, or may specialize in one of 13 areas of Internal Medicine, generally named according to organ system. The training an internist receives to sub-specialize in a particular medical area is both broad and deep. Sub-specialty training is usually termed a "fellowship" and requires an additional one to three years beyond the standard three year General Internal Medicine residency.

The following are the sub-specialties recognized by the American Board of Internal Medicine. These doctors have M.D. degrees. (Each has its own article in The Doctors' Medical Library):

  • Allergy and Immunology
  • Cardiology
  • Endocrinology
  • Gastroenterology
  • Hematology
  • Infectious disease
  • Medical Oncology
  • Nephrology
  • Neurology
  • Pulmonology
  • Rheumatology
  • Adolescent Medicine
  • Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiology
  • Critical Care Medicine
  • Geriatric Medicine
  • Interventional Cardiology
  • Sports Medicine
  • Transplant Hepatology
Osteopathic Physicians are fully licensed medical doctors and hold the D.O. degree. The American College of Osteopathic Internists recognizes the following subspecialties:
  • Allergy and Immunology
  • Cardiology
  • Critical Care Medicine
  • Endocrinology
  • Gastroenterology
  • Geriatric Medicine
  • Hematology and Oncology
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Nuclear Medicine
  • Nephrology


The information in this article is not meant to be medical advice.�Treatment for a medical condition should come at the recommendation of your personal physician.

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