Careers in Internal Medicine

All careers in internal medicine begin with a three year residency program. Following successful completion of residency training, the graduate may begin practice in general internal medicine or may choose to train further in one of the subspecialties of internal medicine.

What does “Internal Medicine” mean?
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.

General Internal Medicine
Doctors of internal medicine focus on adult medicine and have had special study and training focusing on the prevention and treatment of adult diseases. Much of their training is dedicated to learning how to prevent, diagnose, and treat diseases that affect adults.

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 mange difficult medical problems associated with that care.

Subspecialty Training
Internist can choose to focus their practice on general internal medicine, or may take attritional training to “subspecialize.” Subspecialty training (often called a “fellowship”) usually requires an additional one to three years beyond the standard three year general internal medicine residency.

Specialty training is called fellowship training, and usually adds two to three years of training beyond the residency training. Generally, applications for fellowship training are submitted during the second year of internal medicine residency training.

The following is a list of subspecialties that require preliminary training in internal medicine:

  1. Allergy and immunology
  2. Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism
  3. Hematology
  4. Medical Oncology
  5. Rheumatology
  6. Cardiovascular Disease
  7. Gastroenterology
  8. Infectious Disease
  9. Nephrology
  10. Pulmonary Disease
  11. Adolescent Medicine
  12. Geriatrics
  13. Sports Medicine