Make a difference to global health as an infectious disease specialist

August 4, 2015

An infectious disease specialist is a medical doctor who treats patients with complex and unusual infections. They also treat patients whose cause of illness is unknown.

Infectious disease medicine requires substantial formal education as you will need to have a very strong understanding of subjects like microbiology and the management of diseases that are caused by a wide range factors. This specialised knowledge is required to diagnose these complex diseases and develop appropriate treatment plans.

Detailed job description

Infectious disease specialists who work directly with patients usually start by reviewing a file that is sent from another healthcare specialist. This includes reviewing of the medical history of the patient along with various lab reports and X-rays. Samples of blood, tissue or other bodily fluids may be acquired from the patient and these samples are tested in the laboratory for diseases that cause any symptoms that are seen on the patient. Once the disease has been identified, the doctor will then prescribe a treatment plan and medication for the patients.

Infectious disease specialists only diagnose the disease and treat it non-surgically. If surgery is required, they refer the patient to the appropriate surgeon for further treatment.

These doctors will often see about 30 patients a week on an average. They also attend a number of case review meetings, conferences and referral meetings. Follow up appointments are also very common.

Most problems that an infectious disease doctor treats include rashes, fever or stomach related problems, especially by people who have recently visited tropical areas.

Qualifications and training

If you want to become an infectious disease specialist, prepare yourself for a lot of studying and training. You will have to complete up to ten years of studying before you become completely qualified to practice as a doctor in this field. And this studying will not include your undergraduate studies.

You will first have to go through four years of medical school after completing your undergrad. Once that is done you will have to undergo three years of training in internal medicine and then another two years of specialised training in the field of infectious diseases.

You will also have to pass an exam in order to gain certification that qualifies you to practice in this field.

It may be a long daunting journey before you can actually start working but the higher job salaries and the high level of satisfaction more than make up for it.

Workplace settings

There are a number of career opportunities in this field so you can choose to work into different workplace settings based on what kind of work you enjoy.

Some choose to work in the public sector where they work with teams that do research on numerous diseases at a national level.

Many doctors in this field dedicate their lives to treating and trying to cure HIV/AIDS.

Others may choose to work in a hospital or run their own private practices. These doctors interact with patients and focus on individual patient care when it comes to an infectious disease. Many doctors in this field also work with the other healthcare specialists in hospitals to prevent the spread of infectious diseases among patients who have weak immune systems.

Pharmaceutical companies also hire infectious disease specialists in order to help with research for the development of new drugs.