Physicians trained in the field of internal medicine specialize in treating adult diseases - these doctors are expert diagnosticians capable of treating cross-system illnesses that affect many organs.

Video Overview of Internal Medicine

About Internal Medicine

Internists, or doctors of internal medicine, are primary care physicians who specialize in caring for adult patients. Internists are trained to recognize, diagnose, and treat a wide range of complications, conditions and diseases, whether chronic or acute in nature. In thier roles as primary care providers, internists often serve as the first point of medical contact when an adult patient becomes sick or isn’t feeling well. Because internists are trained as primary care physicians in addition to their specialty, many adult patients prefer to see internists instead of general pracitioners or family doctors. Internists are well equipped to treat everything from the most common conditions (such as infections or coughs and colds), in addition to those considered to be complex or rare.

Internists are specifically trained in the “art” of diagnosis and are able to identify and treat diseases and disorders that overlap, affect multiple organs and systems, occur at the same time, or have gone undiagnosed by other physicians. Some diagnostic techniques utilized by internists include diagnostic imaging, a variety of blood and fluid tests, and other more specific and enhanced testing procedures, all of which depend upon the patient's symptoms and medical history.

After arriving at a diagnosis, internists prepare and carry out a treatment plan for the patient. Although internists are able to treat a wide range of illnesses and diseases, the patient may be referred to a specialist when the condition is beyond the internist’s scope of care (such as major surgeries. In addition to treatment plans, internists can also provide the full spectrum of preventive care that patients would expect from any primary care provider.

Internal Medicine Education & Training

The educational path to become an internist requires completion of a bachelor’s degree before completing medical school. After graduating with an MD or DO degree, the physician must complete a three year residency program in internal medicine. During residency training, the physician learns to diagnose and treat adult disease while under the supervision of experienced internists.

Some internists choose to pursue an additional one to two years of specialized fellowship training, which allows them to specialize in a specific area of internal medicine. These areas include: oncology, geriatrics, pediatrics, infectious disease medicine, rheumatology, sleep medicine, gastroenterology, cardiology, endocrinology, or pulmonology. The specific amount of time required to subspecialize varies for each fellowship program and medical subspecialty. Board certification for internists is granted by the American Board of Internal Medicine. Finally, like any type of physician, internists must be issued a medical license in the state(s) in which they provide care.