Internal Medicine is a branch of medicine that deals with the diagnosis and treatment of diseases not requiring surgery (Merriam Webster Dictionary).
Internal Medicine is the branch of medicine in which specialists apply scientific knowledge and clinical expertise to the diagnosis, treatment, and compassionate care of adults across the spectrum from health to complex illness (American College of Physicians).
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 Doctors to help solve puzzling diagnostic matters or issues.
Simply put, Internists are Doctors of Internal Medicine. They are Doctors for adults. But you may see them referred to by several terms, including "Internists," "General Internists" and "Doctors of Internal Medicine." But don't mistake them with "interns," who are Doctors in their first year of residency training.
Although Internists may act as primary care Physicians, they are not "Family Physicians," "Family Practitioners" or "General Practitioners," whose training is not solely concentrated on adults and may include Surgery, Obstetrics/Gynaecology and Pediatrics.
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 matters or issues, and can handle severe-chronic illnesses and situations in which several different illnesses may strike simultaneously. They also bring patients an understanding of wellness (disease prevention and the promotion of 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/Gynaecologists are involved, they coordinate patient 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. Cardiologists, for example, are Doctors of Internal Medicine who subspecialize in diseases of the heart. The training Internists receive 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 term "Internal Medicine" comes from the German term Innere Medizin, a discipline popularized in Germany in the late 1800s to describe Physicians who combined the science of the laboratory with the care of patients. Many early 20th century American Doctors studied medicine in Germany and brought this medical field to the United States. Thus, the term "Internal Medicine" was adopted. Like many words adopted from other languages, it, unfortunately, doesn't exactly have an equivalent translation in English.
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