Internists deal with the diagnosis and treatment of diseases of adults, except for those conditions that require management by a surgeon or an obstetrician. Like the family practitioner, the internist is trained to handle a wide range of illnesses; in fact, many people select an internist as their family doctor.

The internist is specifically trained to deal with chronic (long-term) illnesses, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, and acute (short-term) diseases, such as infections. In addition, an internist has both the range and the depth to diagnose illnesses that might escape detection by a specialist if they lie outside his or her special field.

After graduating from medical school, an internist completes one year of internship, followed by two years of residency in internal medicine. Internal medicine is also the basis for many other specialties, such as cardiology, endocrinology, gastroenterology, hematology, and nephrology. That is why these branches are often referred to as subspecialties, and the doctors who practice them as subspecialists.

In order to become a subspecialist, an internist must complete at least two years of additional training, which is referred to as a fellowship, in his or her chosen subspecialty before becoming eligible for subspecialty board certification.

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