Internal Medicine

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Internists specialize in diseases that affect adults. An internist is not necessarily the same thing as an intern; interns are physicians who are completing their first year of residency training, whereas internists have 3-7 years of training in preventing, diagnosing or treating diseases in adults that occur inside the body.

The father of internal medicine in the U.S. is Sir William Osler (1849-1918). He emphasized diagnosis through a disciplined scientific approach. He replaced traditional treatments or untested theories with scientifically based treatments. Sir William Osler spent time gathering information from the patient about symptoms and previous history, and also conducted physical examinations. His approach is still standard in clinical medical education.

General internists solve puzzling diagnostic problems and can determine the most appropriate care for a severe chronic illness or a combination of illnesses occurring at the same time. They can practice primary care throughout a patient’s lifetime. Subspecialties require additional training, called a fellowship, which lasts 1-3 years. For example, a cardiologist is an internist who specialized in heart disease. The world’s largest society of internists is the American College of Physicians. A Fellow of the ACP, or FACP, is a designation that recognizes a physician’s ongoing service and contributions to medical practice.


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