According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), physicians diagnose and care for people of all ages who are ill or have been injured. They take medical histories, perform physical examinations, conduct diagnostic tests, recommend and provide treatment, and advise patients on their overall health and well-being. While there are several different types of physicians, they can usually be divided into three broad categories:
- Primary care physicians are the doctors patients usually visit most frequently. They treat a wide range of illnesses and regularly provide preventive care, and they also enjoy long-term relationships with their patients. Pediatricians, family practitioners and general internists are primary care physicians.
- Surgeons perform operations to treat diseases and repair injuries.
- Specialists have expertise related to specific diseases as well as body parts, organs, and systems. Cardiologists, Oncologists, Neurologists, and Ophthalmologists are examples of specialists.
While most physicians work with patients full-time, there are many career paths within medicine that including teaching, research, administration and health care policy. The Doctor of Medicine (MD) is the terminal degree for allopathic physicians. The Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) is the terminal degree for osteopathic physicians. Osteopathic physicians are fully licensed physicians trained in the same way as MDs, but with additional specialized training in the musculoskeletal system and a system of treatment known as osteopathic manipulative medicine. Emphasizing a whole-person approach to treatment and care, osteopathic physicians focus on prevention, tuning into how a patient’s lifestyle and environment can impact their well being. Trained to promote the body’s natural tendency toward health and self-healing, osteopathic physicians often consider options to complement pharmaceuticals and surgery. One out of every four medical students is enrolled in an osteopathic medical school.
Individuals who wish to blend clinical medicine with the discovery and application of new knowledge may wish to pursue a dual degree (MD/PhD or DO/PhD) to receive comprehensive training in both areas. There are over 100 dual degree programs, most at MD-granting institutions (though there are some at DO schools), most providing significant financial support for the approximately eight years of required training.
Take the first step toward becoming a doctor
Your path to medical school begins by earning your undergraduate degree and completing any required prerequisite courses at Carroll University. Our advisors will work with you every step of the way to ensure your success. We also provide additional resources to help you build a strong graduate school application, research schools, prepare for graduate interviews and more.