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When you think of a doctor, what image comes to mind? For most of us, the connotation of “doctor” brings forth the visual of a man or woman in a white lab coat, chart in hand, smiling as he or she enters the room to complete your annual check-up. However, that particular doctor, the family physician, represents only one of the countless areas in which medical professionals work. In fact, there is a specific type of doctor for almost every major system located in the human body. Listed below are just thirty of the dozens of examples:
Audiologists specialize in ear related issues, particularly with regard to hearing loss in children. These doctors work with deaf and mute children to assist in their learning to communicate. They typically work in hospitals, Medical Doctors’ offices, audiology clinics, and occasionally in schools.
Allergists work with a wide variety of patients who suffer from issues related to allergies, such as hay, fever, or asthma. They are specially trained to treat these issues and assist patients in dealing with them and what to do when they are encountered.
Anesthesiologists are trained to manage patient pain and vital signs during surgery. They also often manage medical emergencies in the hospital, such as cardiac arrest and sudden breathing problems.
Anesthesiologists study the effects and reactions to anesthetic medicines and administer them to a variety of patients with pain-killing needs. They assess illnesses that require this type of treatment and the dosages appropriate for each specific situation.
Cardiology is one of many sub-specialties of internal medicine. Cardiologists focus on treatment of the heart and its blood vessels.
Training to become a cardiologist is fairly extensive, as several years of fellowship are required after completing three years of internal medicine residency.
Cardiologists specify in the study and treatment of the heart and the many diseases and issues related to it. They assess the medical and family history of patients to determine potential risk for certain cardiovascular diseases and take action to prevent them.
Dentists work with the human mouth, examining teeth and gum health and preventing and detecting various different issues, such as cavities and bleeding gums. Typically, patients are advised to go to the dentist twice a year in order to maintain tooth health.
Dermatologists study skin and the structures, functions and diseases related to it. They examine patients to check for such risk factors as basal cell carcinoma (which signals skin cancer) and moles that may eventually cause skin disease if not treated in time.
Dermatology is one of the most competitive fields for Medical Doctors. Typically, only the very top medical students are accepted into dermatology residency programs. This is because dermatologists are very well compensated due to aesthetic and cash-pay elective procedures such as Botox, laser treatments, and more. Plus, the quality of life is excellent compared to peers in medicine, with little to no on-call time required due to the nature of the work.
A sub-specialty of internal medicine, endocrinologists treat the endocrine system—the glands that produce and secrete hormones that control and regulate nearly all of the body’s functions. People with diabetes or thyroid disease are often treated by an endocrinologist.
Endocrinologists specify in illnesses and issues related to the endocrine system and its glands. They study hormone levels in this area to determine and predict whether or not a patient will encounter an endocrine system issue in the future.
Epidemiologists search for potential diseases that may crop up and cause a great deal of problems for a population and look for vaccinations for current terminal diseases, such as cancer and HIV/AIDS.
Immunologists study the immune system in a variety of organisms, including humans. They determine the weaknesses related to this system and what can be done to override these weaknesses.
Infectious Disease Specialists are often found in research labs and work with viruses and bacteria that tend to cause a variety of dangerous diseases. They examine the source of these organisms and determine what can be done to prevent them from causing illnesses.
Infectious disease physicians deal with infections that are hard to diagnose or treat. A sub-specialty of internal medicine, infectious disease physicians treat serious infections such as swine flu, bird flu, and HIV/AIDS, among other communicable diseases.
General internists provide primary care to adult patients and can take additional training after internal medicine residency to sub-specialize in a variety of other areas, such as endocrinology, or cardiology.
Internists usually have more hospital-based training than family practitioners and may have an office-based practice or work as hospitalists, primarily seeing patients in the hospital.
Internal Medicine Specialists manage and treat diseases through non-surgical means, such as anesthetics and other pain-reliving drugs. They work in many different healthcare facilities and assist other Medical Doctors in finding the most appropriate means of treatment for each individual patient.
Medical Geneticists examine and treat diseases related to genetic disorders. They specialize in disorders that are hereditary in nature and work to find ways to prevent already-present diseases from passing down to the next generation through reproduction.
Microbiologists study the growth infectious bacteria and viruses and their interactions with the human body to determine which could potentially cause harm and severe medical conditions. They also seek to find immunizations for diseases caused by these organisms.
Neonatologists care for newborn infants to ensure their successful entry into a healthy and fulfilling life. The focal point of their examinations is on premature and critically ill infants who require immediate treatment at the risk of fatal consequences.
Neurologists work with the human brain to determine causes and treatments for such serious illnesses as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Dementia, and many others. In addition to research on the brain stem, neurologists also study the nervous system and diseases that affect that region.
Neurologists are doctors who take care of patients with medical conditions that affect the brain, spine, or nerves. Neurologists see patients who have complex medical disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and neuropathy. They also take care of patients who have common problems such as migraine headaches and dizziness.
Neurosurgeons operate on the human brain and body to treat and cure diseases affecting the nervous system and brain stem. They work to alleviate symptoms from serious brain illnesses that cause patients a great deal of physical and emotional pain.
An OB/GYN is a doctor who specializes in women’s reproductive health. These doctors provide women with preventive care, manage pregnancy, labor, and delivery, and diagnose and treat diseases of the reproductive organs. They also specialize in women’s health issues like menopause, hormone problems, contraception, and infertility.
Obstetricians work in a particular area of gynecology that focuses on neonatal care and childbirth. They also perform other operations related to the female reproductive system including c-sections, hysterectomies, and surgical removal of ovarian tumors.
Gynecologists work with the female reproductive system to assess and prevent issues that could potentially cause fertility issues. Female patients are typically advised to see a gynecologist once a year.
Gynecological work also focuses on issues related to prenatal care and options for expectant and new mothers.
In Ghana, one medical doctor performs both specialty functions.
Oncology is a subspecialty of internal medicine. Oncologists take care of patients who have cancer by treating the cancer itself, as well as the symptoms caused by the disease. Often, oncologists take part in clinical trials, using new and experimental treatments for cancers that are otherwise incurable.
Oncologists focus on the treatment and prevention of cancer in terminal and at-risk patients. They offer such treatments as examination and diagnosis of cancerous illnesses, chemotherapy and radiotherapy to destroy cancer cells in the body, and follow-up with survivors after treatment successes.
Orthopedic Surgeons treat ailments concerned with the skeletal system, such as broken bones and arthritis. These doctors are often found in emergency rooms since accidents that result in broken bones are often unintentional and demand immediate treatment.
ENT Specialists concentrate in areas related to the Ear, Nose, and Throat, and sometimes even ailments related to the neck or the head. Children often seek treatment from ENT specialists for surgery in the above areas, and adults see these doctors for sinus infections.
Also known as Otolaryngologists or otorhinolaryngologists, are more commonly referred to as ENTs, which stands for “ear, nose, and throat.” Otolaryngology is another field that entails a combination of surgical skills and office-based medicine and treatment.
ENTs cover a lot of issues including sinus problems, allergies, head and neck cancers, and more. As a result, many Medical Doctors sub-specialize in a specific area of otolaryngology.
Pediatricians take care of younger patients, from infancy through age 18 or, in some cases, age 21.
Pediatricians provide primary health care to children, including immunizations, well-baby checks, school physicals, and treatment of coughs, colds, and stomach flu, among many other things. More seriously ill or complicated patients may be referred to a pediatric sub-specialist for specialized treatment.
Pediatricians work with infants, children, and adolescents regarding a wide variety of health issues, ranging from the common cold to severe conditions. They make their work environments highly “kid-friendly”, often featuring a range of toys and bright colors.
Physiologists study the states of the human body, including emotions and needs. They particularly focus on the functions of the human body to assess if they are working correctly and attempt to determine potential problems before they become an issue.
Plastic Surgeons perform cosmetic surgery to enhance the physical attributes of a patient or amend a physical issue that the patient finds unsatisfactory. The ultimate goal of professionals in this field is to “correct” improper human forms.
Podiatrists work on and study ailments that afflict the feet and ankles of patients. They are often referred to a “foot doctors” and treat such afflictions as athlete’s foot, calluses, diabetic foot ulcers, nail disorders, and other foot injuries and infections.
Psychiatrists, who occupy a more prevalent place in the research field than the medical field, study behavior and mental processes. They often work with patients in one-on-one sessions to alleviate mental illnesses and behavioral disorders.
A psychiatrist treats emotional and behavioral problems through a combination of personal counseling (psychotherapy), psychoanalysis, hospitalization, and medication. Psychiatrists may be office-based, hospital-based, or a combination of the two.
There are a number of different specialty areas within psychiatry. For instance, some psychiatrists may focus on child and adolescent psychiatry, addiction medicine, or on treating older people.
Radiologists diagnose and detect physiological ailments through the use of x-rays and other such imaging technologies. Through the use of these technologies, they scan the victim’s body for hazardous cells, such as cancer cells, and look for fractures or breaks in accident victims.
A radiologist is a Medical Doctor who is trained in looking at and interpreting diagnostic tests. Often, the treating Medical Doctor must look at the test as well, but the radiologist’s interpretation and report can offer additional information or advice for further testing.
Rheumatologists, similar to Allergists, diagnose and treat allergies, as well as autoimmune disorders. However, unlike their Allergy-focused neighbors, these doctors also treat joint and tissue problems and diseases that afflict the immune system.
General Surgeons can be found at the operating table, performing a wide variety of surgeries from head to toe. Subsets of surgeons include such areas as general surgery, neurosurgery, cardiovascular surgery, cardiothoracic surgery, ENT surgery, and oral surgery.
Surgeons spend time planning a surgical procedure, operating in the operating room, and then following up postoperatively to identify complications and to confirm that the procedure was a success.
The training to become a surgeon is typically several years longer than training for primary care.
Urologists specialize in issues related to the urinary system, such as urinary tract infections. They also treat and study afflictions of the kidneys, adrenal glands, bladder, and male reproductive organs.
A sub-specialty of internal medicine, gastroenterologists treat the digestive system. This field attracts Medical Doctors who enjoy doing procedures, but who also like seeing patients in an outpatient setting as well.
Nephrologists treat kidney disease and prescribe dialysis for those experiencing kidney failure. These Medical Doctors train in internal medicine and then sub-specialize in nephrology, which requires an additional two to three years of fellowship training.
Ophthalmologists are medical doctors who treat diseases or disorders of the eyes, such as cataracts and glaucoma. They perform eye surgery when necessary. Vision correction that cannot be handled by an optometrist may be treated by an ophthalmologist.
Pulmonologists treat the cardio-pulmonary system, which consists of the organs, including the lungs and heart, that work together to help a person breathe. They often train in critical care medicine in conjunction with pulmonary disease. As a result, they may work as intensivists (Medical Doctors who cover the intensive care unit) in addition to seeing patients in an office setting to treat breathing disorders, severe allergies, lung problems, and other diseases.
Family medicine is one of the primary care specialties. Family practice physicians see patients of all ages, provide basic care for a variety of common ailments, are usually the first to recognize major health problems, and may order diagnostic tests or refer to a specialist.
Some Medical Doctors do not practice medicine, instead, taking leading roles in healthcare policy, pharmaceutical research, or in health insurance companies. Non-clinical doctors generally are required to have completed medical school and residency, as well as to maintain a medical license.
These health care professionals put a lot of time and effort into getting degrees in these specialized areas, so the next time a kid tells you they want to be a doctor, make sure to ask, “which kind?” For more information on the tough process these doctors went to in order to reach their current position, check out this course on how to get into medical school. Also, if you have any questions about what doctors do, take a look at this blog post on interview questions for healthcare professionals!