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Pulmonologists are internists who diagnose and treat respiratory system diseases. After receiving a medical degree, pulmonologists complete a three-year internal medicine residency and may get certification for that work from the American Board of Internal Medicine. At that point, they are a fellow in pulmonary medicine. However, they still have to complete years of additional specialized training before passing exams to be board-certified in pulmonary medicine. More specialization is possible to help pulmonologists better understand diseases like COPD or asthma or to focus on specific patient demographics, such as patients who are children or elderly.

Pulmonologists deal with diseases that include the following:

  • Bronchiectasis: A disease that widens airways and scars them or makes them flabby
  • COVID-19 pneumonia: Pneumonia that makes breathing hard for patients and may lead to respiratory failure
  • Cystic fibrosis: Gene changes that cause a buildup of mucus in the lungs
  • Emphysema: Air sac damage in the lungs
  • Interstitial lung disease: lung-specific stiffening and scarring
  • Lung cancer: Uncontrolled cell growth in the lungs
  • Obstructive sleep apnea: Abnormal breathing pauses that repeatedly occur during sleep
  • Pneumonia: Inflammation of the alveoli (air sacs) that fills them with pus
  • Pulmonary hypertension: High blood pressure in lung arteries
  • Tuberculosis: A bacterial lung infection


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