Explore internal medicine & its subspecialties – Part 2

October 6, 2014

Article by Global Pre-Meds
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A look at the job description and educational and training requirements for the different subspecialties within internal medicine:

Medical Oncology: job description & training

Gap Medics students getting excited for their hospital placements! Medical oncology is the subspecialty of internal medicine that deals with the treatment of cancer. There are two other types of clinical oncologists – radiation oncologists and surgical oncologists but these are not subspecialties of internal medicine. In most cases, when there is a cancer diagnosis, one of these oncology specialists takes charge of the patient’s overall care through the entire course of the disease.

As an oncologist you would be responsible for caring for a patient from the moment of diagnosis through all of the phases of the disease. You would help patients understand what the diagnosis means, what to expect during the different stages, discuss different treatment options and help them choose the best one and enhance quality of life though optimal care. 

To be able to practice as a medical oncologist you will have to first complete seven or more years of medical school and postgraduate training and become board certified in internal medicine. Following this, you will do an additional two years being broadly trained in all areas of oncology. You could then choose to further specialise in specific types of cancer, such as lung cancer, leukaemia, breast cancer, lymphoma or prostate cancer.


Endocrinology: job description & training

Endocrinologists specialise in the study of hormones. These specialists treat a variety of functions and disorders of the human body ranging from diabetes, growth hormone deficiency, infertility, thyroid disorders and metabolism to glandular cancers, heart disease, obesity, osteoporosis and genetic dysfunction. As an endocrinologist, you would mostly deal with complicated endocrinology disorders that cannot be treated by a general internist. These would include autoimmune disease, pituitary dysfunction, diabetes and thyroid cancer.

If you choose to specialise in this endocrinology you will have to first do seven or more years of medical school and postgraduate training. After becoming board certified in internal medicine you will have to undergo another two to three years training that is focused specifically on the endocrine system, which includes tissue and major endocrine glands such as the thyroid, ovaries, pancreas, pituitary, pineal, testes, thymus and parathyroid.


Rheumatology: job description & training

Rheumatology is an internal medicine subspecialty concerned with joints, bones and muscles and the roles they play in health and disease. Rheumatologists undergo special training in using different techniques to determine the cause of swelling and pain in any joint, muscle or bone. Swelling and pain could be caused by any one of more than 100 diseases, including fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, tendonitis, back pain, gout or lupus. Many of these disorders are not easily identified especially in the early stages. Some of them can be very severe and treatment can be complex.

Rheumatologists are required to first complete seven or more years of medical school and postgraduate training. After obtaining board certification in internal medicine, they spend another two to three years studying conditions that are specific to the musculoskeletal system. These include conditions such as arthritis, osteoporosis, certain autoimmune diseases and pain disorders.