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What is an Internist?

Internists are experts in adult medicine and care for the whole patient. They solve problems with chronic and multiple illnesses no matter how simple or complex. Of all primary care physicians, the “doctors of internal medicine” (also called “internists”) are unique in their focus on adult medicine. They bring to patients an understanding of wellness (disease prevention and the promotion of health), women’s health, substance abuse, mental health, as well as effective treatment of common problems of the eyes, ears, skin, nervous system and reproductive organs. They are specially trained to solve complicated diagnostic problems. They handle severe chronic illnesses and situations where several different illnesses may strike at the same time.

Internists aim to take care of the patients for life ­ in the office or clinic, during hospitalization and intensive care, and in nursing homes. When other medical specialists, such as surgeons or obstetricians, are involved, they coordinate their care for the patients and manage difficult medical problems associated with that care. In fact, as medical consultants to physicians in other specialties that they have earned the nickname, “the doctor’s doctor.”

The doctors of internal medicine are also known as “internists” or “general internists.” This should not be confused with “interns,” who are doctors in their first year of training after medical school. Nor are they the same as “general practitioners” (GPs), or “family physicians” (FPs), whose practices may include surgery, obstetrics and pediatrics, and whose training is not solely concentrated on adults.