Internal medicine is an essential discipline within the medical field dedicated to treating and caring for adults. It covers a multitude of illnesses, emphasizing the importance of diagnosis, treatment, and prevention. At its core, internal medicine aims to provide comprehensive primary medical care to adults, often acting as the first point of contact for patients seeking medical attention.

This article is part of a series of blog posts on the subject of Internal medicine vs Family medicine. Another popular post on this same topic is Why is internal medicine unique?

The Internal Medicine Physician: An Internist

An internal medicine doctor, often referred to as an internist, is a physician who specializes in internal medicine. After earning their medical degree from a medical school, these physicians must undergo a three-year internal medicine residency program. This program provides them with intensive training, allowing them to gain expertise in diagnosing and treating a broad range of illnesses.

Internal medicine encompasses several subspecialties, such as cardiology, endocrinology, and rheumatology, to name just a few. Thus, some internists may further specialize in one of these subspecialties after completing their primary residency. To do so, they must complete additional training through a fellowship program that typically spans two to three years.

Role and Responsibilities of an Internist

Unlike a general practitioner who treats patients of all ages, an internist treats adults. While a physician in family medicine treats children and adults alike, internal medicine physicians focus on adult care. Their role encompasses preventing, diagnosing, and treating diseases that affect adults, which may range from common illnesses to complex, chronic conditions.

Internists are often considered primary care physicians. However, they possess in-depth knowledge about the body’s internal systems, which they leverage to manage complicated illnesses that may require specialized treatment. Moreover, internists often coordinate with other specialists when patients need more specialized care.

Screening and Prevention: The Proactive Approach

A large part of an internist’s role involves preventative care. This includes performing regular screenings to detect potential health issues before they become severe. This proactive approach enables early detection of diseases but also aids in maintaining overall health and wellness. The range of screenings conducted by an internist may include blood pressure checks, cholesterol tests, cancer screenings, and more.

Subspecialties within Internal Medicine

After finishing the general internal medicine residency, many internists pursue further education in a specific area of internal medicine. For instance, an internist interested in the heart’s functioning may specialize in cardiology, a subspecialty of internal medicine. This additional training allows them to concentrate on specific patient care areas and gain deeper expertise.


Internal medicine is a vital field of healthcare that emphasizes a comprehensive approach to adult care. Physicians specializing in this area, also known as internists, undergo extensive training to diagnose, treat, and prevent illnesses afflicting adults. While they provide primary care, they are also equipped with the knowledge and skills to manage complex health issues, showcasing the importance of this specialty in the healthcare industry.