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A medical speciality is a branch of medical practice that is focused on a defined group of patients, diseases, skills, or philosophy. Examples include children (pediatrics), cancer (oncology), laboratory medicine (pathology), or primary care (family medicine). After completing medical school, physicians or surgeons usually further their medical education in a specific specialty of medicine by completing a multiple-year residency to become a medical specialist.
To a certain extent, medical practitioners have long been specialized. According to Galen, specialization was common among Roman physicians. The particular system of modern medical specialties evolved gradually during the 19th century. Informal social recognition of medical specialization evolved before the formal legal system. The particular subdivision of the practice of medicine into various specialties varies from country to country, and is somewhat arbitrary.
Medical specialties can be classified along several axes. These are:
Throughout history, the most important has been the division into surgical and internal medicine specialties. The surgical specialties are those in which an important part of diagnosis and treatment is achieved through major surgical techniques. The internal medicine specialties are the specialties in which the main diagnosis and treatment is never major surgery. In some countries, anesthesiology is classified as a surgical discipline, since it is vital in the surgical process, though anesthesiologists never perform major surgery themselves.
Many specialties are organ-based. Many symptoms and diseases come from a particular organ. Others are based mainly around a set of techniques, such as radiology, which was originally based around X-rays.
The age range of patients seen by any given specialist can be quite variable. Paediatricians handle most complaints and diseases in children that do not require surgery, and there are several subspecialties (formally or informally) in paediatrics that mimic the organ-based specialties in adults. Paediatric surgery may or may not be a separate specialty that handles some kinds of surgical complaints in children.
A further subdivision is the diagnostic versus therapeutic specialties. While the diagnostic process is of great importance in all specialties, some specialists perform mainly or only diagnostic examinations, such as pathology, clinical neurophysiology, and radiology. This line is becoming somewhat blurred with interventional radiology, an evolving field that uses image expertise to perform minimally invasive procedures.
|Specialty||May be subspecialty of||Age range|
|Diagnostic (D) or|
|Surgical (S) or|
internal medicine (I)
or technique-based (T)
|Allergy and immunology||Internal medicine|
|Aerospace medicine||Family Medicine||All||Both||Neither||Both|
|Cardiothoracic surgery||General surgery||Adults||T||S||O|
|Child and adolescent psychiatry||Psychiatry||Paediatric||T||I||T|
|Colorectal surgery||General Surgery||All||Both||S||O|
|Emergency medicine||Family Medicine||All||Both||Both||Both|
|General surgical oncology||General surgery||Adults||T||S||T|
|Gynecologic oncology||Obstetrics and gynecology||All||T||S||O|
|Infectious disease||Internal medicine|
|Intensive care medicine||Anesthesiology|
|Maternal-fetal medicine||Obstetrics and gynecology||Adults||T||S||Both|
|Medical biochemistry||Internal medicine||All||D||I||Neither|
|Medical oncology||Internal medicine||Adults||D||I||Neither|
|Obstetrics and gynecology||Family medicine||All||T||S||O|
|Occupational medicine||Family medicine|
|Oral and maxillofacial surgery||None||All||T||S||O|
|Palliative care||Family Medicine|
|Pediatric allergy and immunology||Pediatrics||Pediatric||T||I||O|
|Pediatric emergency medicine||Pediatrics||Pediatric||Both||Both||Both|
|Pediatric hematology and oncology||Pediatrics||Pediatric||T||I||O|
|Pediatric infectious disease||Pediatrics||Pediatric||T||I||O|
|Pediatric respiratory medicine||Pediatrics||Pediatric||S||I||O|
|Pediatric surgery||General surgery||Pediatric||T||S||O|
|Physical medicine and rehabilitation||None||All||T||I||Multidisciplinary|
|Plastic, reconstructive and aesthetic surgery||General surgery||All||T||S||O|
|Public health||Family medicine||All||Neither||Neither||T|
|Reproductive endocrinology and infertility||Obstetrics and gynecology||Adults||T||S||T|
|Respiratory medicine||Internal medicine||Adults||T||I||O|
|Sports medicine||Family medicine||All||Both||Neither||Multidisciplinary|
|Thoracic surgery||General surgery||Adults||T||S||T|
|Vascular surgery||General surgery||All||T||S||O|
The European Union publishes a list of specialties recognized in the European Union, and by extension, the European Economic Area.Note that there is substantial overlap between some of the specialties and it is likely that for example "Clinical radiology" and "Radiology" refer to a large degree to the same pattern of practice across Europe.
In this table, as in many healthcare arenas, medical specialties are organized into the following groups:
|Allergy and immunology||Allergic reactions, asthma, and the immune system|
|Anesthesiology||AN, PAN||Surgery [ citation needed ]||Anesthesia|
|Cardiology||Medicine||Disease of the cardiovascular system|
|Cardiovascular surgery||Surgery||The operation of heart and major blood vessels of the chest.|
|Clinical laboratory sciences||Diagnostic||Application of diagnostic techniques in medical laboratories such as assays, microscope analysis.|
|Dermatology||D, DS||Medicine||Dermatology, Mohs surgery||Skin and its appendages (hair, nails, sweat glands etc.).|
|Dietetics||RD||Food and nutrition|
|Emergency medicine||EM||Medicine||The initial management of emergent medical conditions, often in hospital emergency departments or the field.|
|Endocrinology||Medicine||The endocrine system (i.e., endocrine glands and hormones) and its diseases, including diabetes and thyroid diseases.|
|Family medicine||FM||Medicine||Continuing, comprehensive healthcare for the individual and family, integrating the biological, clinical and behavioral sciences to treat patients of all ages, sexes, organ systems, and diseases.|
|Gastroenterology||GI||Medicine||The alimentary tract|
|Geriatrics||IMG||Medicine [ citation needed ]||Elderly patients|
|Gynecology||Female reproductive health|
|Hepatology||Medicine||The liver and biliary tract, usually a part of gastroenterology.|
|Infectious disease||ID||Medicine||Diseases caused by biological agents|
|Intensive care medicine||Medicine||Life support and management of critically ill patients, often in an ICU.|
|Medical research||Anatomy, Biochemistry, Embryology, Genetics, Pharmacology, Toxicology||Care of hospitalized patients|
|Neurology||N||Medicine||Diseases involving the central, peripheral, and autonomic nervous systems|
|Neurosurgery||NS||Surgery||Disease of the central nervous system, peripheral nervous system, and spinal column.|
|Obstetrics and gynecology||OB/GYN||Surgery [ citation needed ]|
|Oncology||ON||Medicine||Cancer and other malignant diseases, often grouped with hematology.|
|Ophthalmology||OPH||Surgery||Retina, Cornea||Diseases of the visual pathways, including the eyes, brain, etc.|
|Oral and maxillofacial surgery||Maxfacs, OMS||Surgery||Disease of the head, neck, face, jaws and the hard and soft tissues of the oral and maxillofacial region.|
|Orthopedic surgery||ORS||Surgery||Hand surgery, surgical sports medicine, adult reconstruction, spine surgery, foot and ankle, musculoskeletal oncology, orthopedic trauma surgery, pediatric orthopedic surgery||Injury and disease of the musculoskeletal system.|
|Otorhinolaryngology, or ENT||ORL, ENT||Surgery||Head and neck, facial cosmetic surgery, Neurotology, Laryngology||Treatment of ear, nose, and throat disorders. The term head and neck surgery defines a closely related specialty that is concerned mainly with the surgical management of cancer of the same anatomical structures.|
|Palliative care||PLM||Medicine||A relatively modern branch of clinical medicine that deals with pain and symptom relief and emotional support in patients with terminal illnesses including cancer and heart failure.|
|Pathology||PTH||Diagnostic||Understanding disease through examination of molecules, cells, tissues and organs. The term encompasses both the medical specialty that uses tissues and body fluids to obtain clinically useful information and the related scientific study of disease processes.|
|Pediatrics||PD||Medicine||Children. Like internal medicine, pediatrics has many sub-specialties for specific age ranges, organ systems, disease classes, and sites of care delivery. Most sub-specialties of adult medicine have a pediatric equivalent such as pediatric cardiology, pediatric emergency medicine, pediatric endocrinology, pediatric gastroenterology, pediatric hematology, pediatric oncology, pediatric ophthalmology, and neonatology.||deals with the medical care of infants, children, and adolescents (from newborn to age 16-21, depending on the country).|
|Pediatric surgery||Surgery||Treats a wide variety of thoracic and abdominal (and sometimes urologic) diseases of childhood.|
|Physical medicine and rehabilitation Or Physiatry||PM&R||Medicine||Concerned with functional improvement after injury, illness, or congenital disorders.|
|Plastic surgery||PS||Surgery||Elective cosmetic surgery as well as reconstructive surgery after traumatic or operative mutilation.|
|Podiatry||POD||Surgery||Elective podiatric surgery of the foot and ankle, lower limb diabetic wound and salvation, peripheral vascular disease limb preservation, lower limb mononeuropathy conditions. Reconstructive foot & ankle surgery.|
|Proctology||PRO||Medicine||(or Colorectal Surgery) Treats disease in the rectum, anus, and colon.|
|Psychiatry||P||Medicine||The bio-psycho-social study of the etiology, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of cognitive, perceptual, emotional and behavioral disorders. Related non-medical fields include psychotherapy and clinical psychology.|
|Pulmonology||Medicine||The lungs and respiratory system. Pulmonology is generally considered a branch of internal medicine, although it is closely related to intensive care medicine when dealing with patients requiring mechanical ventilation.|
|Public Health||Public health focuses on the health of populations. Physicians employed in this field work in policy, research or health promotion, taking a broad view of health that encompasses the social determinants of health.|
|Radiology||R, DR||Diagnostic and Therapeutic||The use of expertise in radiation in the context of medical imaging for diagnosis or image guided minimally invasive therapy. X-rays, etc.|
|Rheumatology||RHU||Medicine||Autoimmune and inflammatory diseases of the joints and other organ systems, such as arthritis and other rheumatic diseases.|
|Surgical oncology||SO||Surgery||Curative and palliative surgical approaches to cancer treatment.|
|Thoracic surgery||TS||Surgery||Surgery of the organs of the thoracic cavity: the heart, lungs, and great vessels.|
|Transplant surgery||TTS||Surgery||Transplantation of organs from one body to another|
|Urgent Care Medicine||UCM||Medicine||Immediate medical care offering outpatient care for the treatment of acute and chronic illness and injury|
|Urology||U||Surgery||Urinary tracts of males and females, and the male reproductive system. It is often practiced together with andrology ("men's health").|
|Vascular surgery||VS||Surgery||The peripheral blood vessels – those outside the chest (usually operated on by cardiovascular surgeons) and outside the central nervous system (treated by neurosurgery)|
The mean annual salary of a medical specialist in the US in 2006 was $175,011and $272,000 for surgeons.
The table below details the average range of salaries for physicians in the US of selected specialties as of July 2010. Also given in the average number of hours worked per week for full-time physicians (2003 data).
|Specialty||Median salary (USD)||Average hours||Average salary/hour (USD)|
|Anaesthesia||331,000 to $423,507||61|
|Dermatology||313,100 to $480,088||45.5||103|
|Emergency medicine||239,000 to $316,296||46||87|
|Cardiac Surgery||218,684 to $500,000||55|
|Family medicine||175,000 to $220,196||52.5||58|
|Internal medicine||184,200 to $231,691||57||58|
|Neurology||213,000 to $301,327||55.5||93|
|Obstetrics and Gynecology||251,500 to $326,924||61||83|
|Ophthalmology||150,000 to $351,000||47|
|Orthopedic surgery||397,879 to $600,000||58|
|Otolaryngology||191,000 to $393,000||53.5|
|Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery||260,000 to $440,210||53|
|Pediatrics||160,111 to $228,750||54||69|
|Podiatry||170,800 to $315,150||45||80|
|Psychiatry||173,800 to $248,198||48||72|
|Radiology (diagnostic)||377,300 to $478,000||58|
|Surgery (general)||284,642 to $383,333||60|
|Urology||331,192 to $443,518||60.5|
|Neurosurgery||350,000 to $705,000||132|
|Plastic surgery||265,000 to $500,000||114|
|Gastroenterology||251,026 to $396,450||93|
|Pulmonology||165,000 to $365,875||72|
Specialty training in Australia and New Zealand is overseen by the specialty colleges:
Specialty training in Canada is overseen by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and the College of Family Physicians of Canada. For specialists working in the province of Quebec, the Collège des médecins du Québec also oversees the process.
In Germany these doctors use the term Facharzt.
Specialty training in India is overseen by the Medical Council of India, which is responsible for recognition of post graduate training and by the National Board of Examinations. And education of Ayurveda in overseen by Central Council of Indian Medicine (CCIM), the council conducts u.g and p.g courses all over India, while Central Council of Homoeopathy does the same in the field of Homeopathy.
In Sweden, a medical license is required before commencing specialty training. Those graduating from Swedish medical schools are first required to do a rotational internship of about 1.5 to 2 years in various specialties before attaining a medical license. The specialist training lasts 5 years.
There are three agencies or organizations in the United States that collectively oversee physician board certification of MD and DO physicians in the United States in the 26 approved medical specialties recognized in the country. These organizations are the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) and the American Medical Association (AMA); the American Osteopathic Association Bureau of Osteopathic Specialists (AOABOS) and the American Osteopathic Association; the American Board of Physician Specialties (ABPS) and the American Association of Physician Specialists (AAPS). Each of these agencies and their associated national medical organization functions as its various specialty academies, colleges and societies.
|Certifying board||National organization||Physician type|
|ABMS||AMA||MD and DO|
|ABPS||AAPS||MD and DO|
All boards of certification now require that medical practitioners demonstrate, by examination, continuing mastery of the core knowledge and skills for a chosen specialty. Recertification varies by particular specialty between every seven and every ten years.
In the United States there are hierarchies of medical specialties in the cities of a region. Small towns and cities have primary care, middle sized cities offer secondary care, and metropolitan cities have tertiary care. Income, size of population, population demographics, distance to the doctor, all influence the numbers and kinds of specialists and physicians located in a city.
A population's income level determines whether sufficient physicians can practice in an area and whether public subsidy is needed to maintain the health of the population. Developing countries and poor areas usually have shortages of physicians and specialties, and those in practice usually locate in larger cities. For some underlying theory regarding physician location, see central place theory.
The proportion of men and women in different medical specialties varies greatly. Such sex segregation is largely due to differential application.
A survey of physicians in the United States came to the result that dermatologists are most satisfied with their choice of specialty followed by radiologists, oncologists, plastic surgeons, and gastroenterologists.In contrast, primary care physicians were the least satisfied, followed by nephrologists, obstetricians/gynecologists, and pulmonologists. Surveys have also revealed high levels of depression among medical students (25 - 30%) as well as among physicians in training (22 - 43%), which for many specialties, continue into regular practice. A UK survey conducted of cancer-related specialties in 1994 and 2002 found higher job satisfaction in those specialties with more patient contact. Rates of burnout also varied by specialty.
General surgery is a surgical specialty that focuses on abdominal contents including esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, liver, pancreas, gallbladder, appendix and bile ducts, and often the thyroid gland. They also deal with diseases involving the skin, breast, soft tissue, trauma, peripheral Peripheral vascular disease disease and hernias and perform endoscopic procedures such as gastroscopy and colonoscopy.
Medicine is the science and practice of establishing the diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, and prevention of disease. Medicine encompasses a variety of health care practices evolved to maintain and restore health by the prevention and treatment of illness. Contemporary medicine applies biomedical sciences, biomedical research, genetics, and medical technology to diagnose, treat, and prevent injury and disease, typically through pharmaceuticals or surgery, but also through therapies as diverse as psychotherapy, external splints and traction, medical devices, biologics, and ionizing radiation, amongst others.
Emergency medicine, also known as accident and emergency medicine, is the medical specialty concerned with the care of illnesses or injuries requiring immediate medical attention. Emergency physicians care for unscheduled and undifferentiated patients of all ages. As first-line providers, their primary responsibility is to initiate resuscitation and stabilization and to start investigations and interventions to diagnose and treat illnesses in the acute phase. Emergency physicians generally practise in hospital emergency departments, pre-hospital settings via emergency medical services, and intensive care units, but may also work in primary care settings such as urgent care clinics. Sub-specializations of emergency medicine include disaster medicine, medical toxicology, ultrasonography, critical care medicine, hyperbaric medicine, sports medicine, palliative care, or aerospace medicine.
In the medical profession, a general practitioner (GP) is a medical doctor who treats acute and chronic illnesses and provides preventive care and health education to patients.
Internal medicine or general medicine is the medical specialty dealing with the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of adult diseases. Physicians specializing in internal medicine are called internists, or physicians in Commonwealth nations. Internists are skilled in the management of patients who have undifferentiated or multi-system disease processes. Internists care for hospitalized and ambulatory patients and may play a major role in teaching and research.
A radiation oncologist is a specialist physician who uses ionizing radiation in the treatment of cancer. Radiation oncology is one of the three primary specialties, the other two being surgical and medical oncology, involved in the treatment of cancer. Radiation can be given as a curative modality, either alone or in combination with surgery and/or chemotherapy. It may also be used palliatively, to relieve symptoms in patients with incurable cancers. A radiation oncologist may also use radiation to treat some benign diseases, including benign tumors. In some countries, radiotherapy and chemotherapy are controlled by a single oncologist who is a "clinical oncologist". Radiation oncologists work closely with other physicians such as surgical oncologists, interventional radiologists, internal medicine subspecialists, and medical oncologists, as well as medical physicists and technicians as part of the multi-disciplinary cancer team.. Radiation oncologists undergo four years of oncology specific training whereas oncologists who deliver chemotherapy have two years of additional training in cancer care during fellowship after internal medicine residency in the United States.
A podiatrist, also known as a podiatric physician or foot and ankle surgeon, is a medical professional devoted to the treatment of disorders of the foot, ankle, and lower extremity. The term originated in North America, but has now become the accepted term in the English-speaking world for all practitioners of podiatric medicine.
Anesthesiology, anaesthesiology, anaesthesia or anaesthetics is the medical speciality concerned with the total perioperative care of patients before, during and after surgery. It encompasses anesthesia, intensive care medicine, critical emergency medicine, and pain medicine. A physician specialised in this field of medicine is called an anesthesiologist, anaesthesiologist or anaesthetist, depending on the country.
Podiatry is a branch of medicine devoted to the study, diagnosis, and medical and surgical treatment of disorders of the foot, ankle, and lower extremity. The term podiatry came into use in the early 20th century in the United States and is now used worldwide, including in countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada.
Residency or postgraduate training is a stage of graduate medical education. It refers to a qualified physician, podiatrist, dentist, optometrist, veterinarian, or pharmacist who practices medicine, usually in a hospital or clinic, under the direct or indirect supervision of a senior clinician registered in that specialty such as an attending physician or consultant. In many jurisdictions, successful completion of such training is a requirement in order to obtain an unrestricted license to practice medicine, and in particular a license to practice a chosen specialty. An individual engaged in such training may be referred to as a resident, house officer, registrar or trainee depending on the jurisdiction. Residency training may be followed by fellowship or sub-specialty training.
The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists (RANZCR) is the leading professional organisation for the promotion of the science and practice of the medical specialties of clinical radiology and radiation oncology in Australia and New Zealand. The College has members throughout the world. RANZCR provides the educational curricula for medical graduates training to enter the specialties.
There are a number of professional degrees in dentistry offered by dental schools in various countries around the world.
Medical education in Australia includes the educational activities involved in the initial and ongoing training of Medical Practitioners. In Australia, medical education begins in Medical School; upon graduation it is followed by a period of pre-vocational training including Internship and Residency; thereafter, enrolment into a specialist-vocational training program as a Registrar eventually leads to fellowship qualification and recognition as a fully qualified Specialist Medical Practitioner. Medical education in Australia is facilitated by Medical Schools and the Medical Specialty Colleges, and is regulated by the Australian Medical Council (AMC) and Australian Health Practitioners Regulatory Agency (AHPRA) of which includes the Medical Board of Australia where medical practitioners are registered nationally.
Oral medicine is a specialty focused on the mouth and nearby structures. It lies at the interface between medicine and dentistry.
The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) is the leading advocate for surgical standards, professionalism and surgical education in Australia and New Zealand.
Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, abbreviated as the post-nominal initials FRACP, is a recognition of the completion of the prescribed postgraduate specialist training programme in internal adult or internal paediatric medicine of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians.
In some Commonwealth countries and Ireland, a medical royal college is a professional body in the form of a Royal College responsible for development of and training in one or more medical specialities.
Anaesthesia, Trauma and Critical Care (ATACC) is an international trauma and anaesthesia organisation.
In the United States and Canada, there are ten recognized dental specialties in which some dentists choose to train and practice, in addition to or instead of general dentistry. In the United Kingdom and Australia, there are thirteen.