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What is General Internal Medicine?

A specialist in general internal medicine is often referred to as an “internist.” While internal medicine physicians also provide comprehensive care, they should not be confused with general practitioners or family medicine practitioners, both of which may provide pregnancy care, deliver babies, and treat children. An internal medicine doctor specializes only in the health care of adults.

With internal medicine, there is never an illness too big or too small. These physicians have exceptionally broad-based training, and they can care for patients in any condition -- from healthy to dealing with serious medical issues. Because their scope is so wide, internal medicine physicians can provide an excellent picture of overall health.

One of the unusual aspects of internal medicine is that physicians in this field often treat their patients for a very long time -- sometimes for life. They manage preventive care when their patients are well, and they become advocates and consultants when complex medical issues arise. Because internal medicine physicians tend to treat patients over a long period of time, they are an ideal choice to manage chronic illnesses.

There are a huge number of subspecialties within internal medicine, for example: cardiology (which deals with problems of the heart and blood vessels), nephrology (which deals with diseases of the kidneys), and hospice medicine (which tends to the special needs of patients at the end of life). General internal medicine is considered a subspecialty itself and refers to internists without another specific focus. General internists provide total, primary care for the whole body of adult patients, in sickness or in health.