Subspecialty Careers: Adolescent Medicine
Adolescent medicine focuses on the physical, psychological, social, and sexual development of adolescents and young adults. Multidisciplinary and comprehensive in approach, this specialty encompasses the full spectrum of acute, chronic, and preventive health care. Adolescent medicine evaluates medical and behavioral problems within the context of puberty and tailors management to the individual's developmental needs. Problems typically encountered include abnormalities in growth and development, vision and hearing disorders, learning disabilities, musculoskeletal problems (often sports related), allergies, acne, eating disorders, substance abuse, psychosocial adjustment problems, sexually transmitted diseases, contraception and pregnancy, and sexual identity concerns. In addition, adolescent medicine emphasizes the management of chronic diseases that begin in childhood and continue into adulthood, such as diabetes, asthma, cystic fibrosis, congenital heart disease, and inflammatory bowel diseases.
Opportunities for physicians to practice exclusively in this discipline are relatively few but growing in the private sector and are generally found within academic medical centers or in the public health sector. Adolescent medicine is an important part of general internal medicine, pediatrics, and family medicine.
While most fellowship programs in adolescent medicine are clinically oriented, most fellowships do provide significant background in research, prevention, and education. Adolescent medicine fellowships vary from one to three years in length. Candidates for fellowship programs must have completed an approved residency in internal medicine, pediatrics, family practice, or combined medicine-pediatrics.
The Adolescent Medicine Certification Program was jointly developed by the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM), the American Board of Family Medicine (ABFM), and the American Board of Pediatrics (ABP), and is designed to recognize excellence among those with special expertise in this field. The admission requirements and the standard for certification for all Boards are similar.
For the 2012-2013 academic year, there are 28 ACGME-accredited training programs in adolescent medicine with 67 trainees.
The Society of Adolescent Medicine annually publishes a list of available fellowships on their website.