Prevention, in its broadest sense, is practiced by all physicians and other health professionals who help their patients to stay healthy. Preventive medicine, however, is also a distinct medical specialty, one of 25 recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties. The specialty of preventive medicine is based on our knowledge that promoting health and preventing disease requires work with both individuals and communities.
Preventive medicine physicians are trained in both clinical medicine and public health. They have the skills to understand and reduce the risks of disease, disability, and death both in individuals and population groups. The distinctive aspects of preventive medicine include knowledge and competence in:
Specialists in general preventive medicine/public health focus their skills on population groups, such as the residents of a particular community or state, or the patient population of a health center, hospital or managed care organization. Preventive medicine specialists work in a wide variety of settings, including primary care and managed care settings, public health and community agencies, industry, and academia. These physicians usually engage in multiple activities, including planning, administration and evaluation of disease prevention and health promotion programs, research, teaching, and direct patient care.
The American Board of Preventive Medicine (ABPM) and the American Osteopathic Association grant certificates to physicians who have successfully completed three years of supervised training and a written examination in any one of three areas: general preventive medicine/public health, occupational medicine, or aerospace medicine.
The varied career paths include managed care, public health, occupational medicine, aerospace medicine, clinical medicine, informatics, policy development, academic medicine, international medicine, and research, covering all levels of government, educational institutions, organized medical care programs in industry, as well as voluntary health agencies and health professional organizations. About 6000 physicians nationally are board-certified in preventive medicine.
Every major study of national health workforce needs has concluded that there is a shortage of physicians trained in preventive medicine. The Council on Graduate Medical Education (COGME) has reported continued shortages in the field of preventive medicine and recommended increasing the percentage of physicians trained and certified in preventive medicine as a national goal. Practitioners of population-based medicine are playing ever more important roles in building health care systems that are accountable for quality and health outcomes.
In addition to the need for more physicians trained in the specialty of preventive medicine, there is a need for more training in prevention in all the other medical specialties, especially in primary care. Towards this end, the Department of Preventive Medicine is initiating efforts to strengthen prevention education, particularly in relation to individual patient care. This will be accomplished by weaving the distinctive aspects of preventive medicine throughout all coursework offered to medical students at NSU. Specialists in preventive medicine, who have skills in population-based prevention as well as individual preventive interventions, can assist the other specialties in the further development of education in prevention and the population-based health sciences for residents and medical students alike.
Presently, NSU's department of Preventive Medicine is engaging in asthma research involving health disparities among populations. This multi-institutional project will distinguish "best practices" for identification and intervention along the continuum of this disease process. Additionally, a project regarding the prevalence of Lymphatic Filariasis in a local rural community will begin shortly, no such study has been conducted in the United States in the past twenty years. Additional areas of future research include the investigation of possible emerging health threats.
The department is also working closely with the department of geriatrics in the development of a geriatric fellowship program that is designed to meet the growing needs of our aging population.