We're sorry, but something went wrong.

We've been notified about this issue and we'll take a look at it shortly.

We're sorry, but something went wrong

We're sorry, but something went wrong.

We've been notified about this issue and we'll take a look at it shortly.

What is a Doctor of Internal Medicine, or Internist?

“The real value of internal medicine for me is coordinating care. It’s very interesting, the variety of problems I address on a daily basis. My work is never routine. I’ve never known an internist who was bored, myself included.”-- Mark D. Anderson, MD, FACP

Internists are specialists in adult medicine and are major providers of primary care to adults in this country. They are especially well trained in the diagnosis of puzzling medical problems, in the ongoing care of complex and chronic illnesses, and in caring for patients with more than one disease. Internists also specialize in health promotion and disease prevention.

Simply put, doctors of internal medicine are Doctors for Adults. They can be called "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, and pediatrics.

Internists routinely see patients with conditions such as heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and chronic lung disease. An internist may consult with doctors in other fields of medicine, or may be called to consult on a patient by another specialist.

To become an internist, a graduate of a four-year medical school must complete a residency in internal medicine, which usually lasts three years. Once general internal medicine residency training is complete, a physician may begin to practice internal medicine, or internists may then choose to subspecialize in a particular area of internal medicine, for example, cardiology or infectious diseases. Subspecialty training, called fellowship, calls for two to three years of additional training.

Most general internists provide care for their patients in an ambulatory setting (office or outpatient), and follow their patients when hospitalized (inpatient setting). Other internists are known as “hospitalists” and care for patients only in the hospital.

The term internal medicine comes from the German term innere medizin, popularized in Germany in the late 19th century 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 name "internal medicine" was adopted. As with many words adopted from other languages, it unfortunately doesn't exactly fit an American meaning.

“[Internal medicine] truly fascinated me. I liked the ultimate problem solving, the talking to the patients and forming relationships with them. I liked the idea of having that much knowledge. There’s just nothing that compares to internal medicine in terms of the broad range of what it touches.” -- Esther Nash, MD

We're sorry, but something went wrong

We're sorry, but something went wrong.

We've been notified about this issue and we'll take a look at it shortly.