PediatricsJuly 4, 2012
Pediatrics is specifically the medical and surgical care of children from birth to late adolescence. It covers every aspect of medicine, so some pediatricians specialize in one particular area, such as oncology, psychology or orthopedics, but still use the blanket term pediatrician. Others are general pediatricians and are often more concerned with prevention. The obesity epidemic from which much of the developed world can be considered to be suffering is very much the concern of pediatricians at the moment and the diet and exercise regimes of the young are being studied in great depth. Many pediatricians are becoming concerned at the worsening health of the young and are taking steps to try and turn the trend around. The impact of being overweight on the body is severe whenever it occurs, but in childhood the effect is often both lifelong and life limiting.
Before becoming a pediatrician the medical practitioner will have completed a medical degree and passed all relevant examinations. There is then a period of training in the specific area of pediatrics and then more in any specialty that is to be followed. A pediatrician is perhaps one of the most satisfying specialties to be followed in medicine, as all others (with of course the exception of gerontology) deal with all ages of people. A pediatrician is one of the few specialists who will by definition end up passing on their patients to another specialist for the sole reason that they have grown up. Many patients have a very strong bond with their pediatrician which can bring its own problems, especially in the field of psychiatry, but the training includes these issues so the doctor at least is prepared, even if the patient is not.
Pediatric oncology is a very rewarding and yet sometimes heartrending specialty which calls for some very special qualities. If the patient is terminal this is difficult for the family and care givers, although often the child has a depth of understanding which gives everyone the strength they need. Again, the training covers the special requirements needed in caring for children with life limiting conditions and the satisfaction from following this path can be very great. Also, with research turning up new procedures, drugs and regimes all the time, the pediatric oncologist is often at the very cutting edge of medical knowledge.
The confusion in the mind of the public between obstetrician and pediatrician is perhaps understandable, as the line at which a child ceases to be the patient of one and becomes the patient of the other is very hazy. In fact, most children will not need the services of a pediatrician except for regular developmental checkups as they grow, whereas every child born in a medical setting will meet an obstetrician! Some children need a lot of input in their early months and years if their milestones are not met in a timely fashion but can then suddenly spurt ahead. Others sail through childhood without any problems – the pediatrician’s favorite kind of child; a well one.