Internal Medicine Definition
A doctor of internal medicine, or “internist” is a specialist trained in the diagnosis, treatment, and care of adults. They are concerned with the overall health and well-being of the adult patient. They generally have three or more years of their medical school and postgraduate training dedicated to understanding prevention, diagnosis and treatment of adult diseases. (Some people confuse a “Doctor of Internal Medicine” or “internist” with a doctor in their first year of residency training called an “intern”.)
The internist uses tools such as history taking, physical examination, and diagnostic testing. Their responsibilities often include patient education, prescription of medications, lifestyle modification, and referral to other medical specialists.
Adult diseases addressed by an internist include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and many other medical conditions. Internists are sometimes referred to as the “doctor’s doctor”—as a result of their extensive training, they are often called upon by other physicians to help diagnose difficult medical challenges.
Practicing in Bend, Oregon as an internal medicine physician, Dr. Rich MacDonell provides thorough, compassionate care to keep his patients healthy and active. In addition to treating specific conditions, he provides practical advice and prevention tips to help his patients take a pro-active role in their health, fitness and overall quality of life.
General Internal Medicine
When an internist enters into practice after the completion of their broad training, they are practicing “general internal medicine” and are commonly called “general internists”. As such, they are well-trained to handle the full spectrum of illnesses that affect adults and are recognized as experts in the diagnosis and treatment of disease. They also receive extensive training around the promotion of optimal health and the prevention of disease. Their training is aimed at understanding the body as a whole, not a single disease or organ system. Since adult illness often involves complex diagnostic challenges with multiple contributing factors, the general internist is particularly well-trained to provide diagnosis and care.
Dr. MacDonell has chosen to practice primary care and follow his patients throughout their adult lives. While the comprehensive knowledge of medical history from this relationship is important, perhaps more valuable over time is the caring and compassionate friendship that can emerge as a result.
Internal Medicine vs. Family Medicine
There are fundamental differences in training, clinical approach and activities between internal medicine and family medicine. While the basic training for both specialties is three years, as noted above, internal medicine focuses only on adults. This training focuses on common general medical conditions, but also includes significant training in subspecialties such as neurology, endocrinology, rheumatology, and infectious diseases. Internal medicine candidates are also required to have clinical experience where they must develop long-term therapeutic relationships with patients. Most training programs also involve caring for hospital patients and intensive/critical care settings.
Family medicine training is generally based in outpatient situations where the trainees provide care for adults and children. They are also required to have some experience with obstetrics, gynecology, surgery and geriatric care. This education tends to be broader in nature than internal medicine, but less comprehensive in the areas related to adult medical issues. This equips the family medicine practitioner with the skills to deal with medical issues in the entire family and in communities where specialists might not be readily available.