The term "Internal Medicine" comes from the German term Innere Medizin, a discipline popularized in Germany in the late 1800s 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. Like many words adopted from other languages, it unfortunately doesn't exactly fit an American meaning.
The core of an osteopathic physician's knowledge and treatment of disease entities is found in internal medicine. Internal Medicine is the field of practice that is dedicated to the primary or specialty care of the adult patient. Based in primary care, the Internist practices both in the outpatient setting and in the hospital. While some Internists spend very little of their time in the hospital, other Internists prefer to restrict the majority of their practices to inpatient care and consultation.
Doctors of internal medicine focus on adult medicine and have had special study and training that focuses on the prevention and treatment of adult diseases. At least three of their seven or more years of medical school and postgraduate training are dedicated to learning how to prevent, diagnose, and treat diseases that affect adults. Internists are sometimes referred to as the "doctor's doctor," because they are often called upon to act as consultants to other physicians to help solve puzzling diagnostic problems.
Simply put, doctors of internal medicine are Doctors for Adults. But you may see them referred to by several terms, including "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 are equipped to deal with whatever problem a patient brings -- no matter how common or rare, or how simple or complex. They are specially trained to solve puzzling diagnostic problems and can handle severe chronic illnesses and situations where several different illnesses may strike at the same time. They also bring to patients an understanding of wellness (disease prevention and the promotion of health), women's health, substance abuse, mental health, as well as effective treatment of common problems of the eyes, ears, skin, nervous system and reproductive organs.
In today's complex medical environment, internists take pride in caring for their patients for life -- in the office or clinic, during hospitalization and intensive care, and in nursing homes. When other medical specialists, such as surgeons or obstetricians, are involved, they coordinate their patient's care and manage difficult medical problems associated with that care.
Internists can choose to focus their practice on general internal medicine, or may take additional training to "subspecialize" in one of 13 areas of internal medicine. Cardiologists, for example, are doctors of internal medicine who subspecialize in diseases of the heart. The training an internist receives to subspecialize in a particular medical area is both broad and deep. Subspecialty training (often called a "fellowship") usually requires an additional one to three years beyond the standard three year general internal medicine residency.
Internal Medicine continues a physician’s commitment to lifelong learning. Osteopathic (and Allopathic) Internal Medicine requires three years of postgraduate Internal Medicine training. The first year may be taken as a "Medicine Track" internship, which meets the AOA requirements for both internship and first year of residency training, followed by two more years. If the first postgraduate year is taken in another type of internship, three more years must be completed to be eligible for certification.
If one wishes to proceed further into sub-specialization, that training begins after completion of three years of training, and continues for one to four more years, depending on the subspecialty. Most subspecialists choose to practice a combination of general internal medicine and their subspecialty. With its strong core curriculum, Internal Medicine training keeps all options open. It is the choice that allows a physician's career to evolve as interests change over time, and as the market changes to meet America's health care needs. During these years, the resident acquires experience and expertise in both ambulatory and hospital-based care, across the broad spectrum of human health and disease.
We are striving to be the best Department of Internal Medicine in the Osteopathic profession. Our most important role is to provide superior medical education and training in Internal Medicine and its subspecialties to our medical students and residents. We are also dedicated to serve our patients and colleagues by expanding our current services to enable expert consultative care in both General Internal Medicine as well as its subspecialties. NSU's Dr. Kiran C. Patel College of Osteopathic Medicine Department of Internal Medicine will be the source for expert opinion and an authoritative resource for patients and physicians.