A specialist is a physician who has received additional training in a medical specialty in addition to their basic training in medical school and as an intern. Completing a specialty is a minimum requirement in order to become board certified. In most places, a physician is prevented from using a term designating a medical speciality unless they have completed their specialist training. Depending on the specialty, a physician must work for several years as a resident under the supervision of a qualified specialist, usually in a hospital setting.
Specialites fall within several ranges of practice:
- The primary range is the difference between surgeons, who use invasive methods to treat disease, and internists, who treat disease with less invasive methods.
- Another range has to do with the age of the patient, starting with pediatrics, through internal medicine for adults, then geriatrics for the elderly.
- Next is whether the physician will most likely be doing diagnostics, or determining which disease the patient has, or will be primarily involved in therapy - the direct treatment of disease.
- Lastly is whether the specialty will focus on a particular organ (such as a cardiologist) or a particular treatment technique (like a plastic surgeon)
There are about 45 specialities that are recognized worldwide, which also encompass perhaps hundreds of sub-specialties. However, board certification only recognizes 26 distinct specialties. New medical specialities are being developed, most recently the study of diseases that only occur in men, which will most likely be called andrology.
The period of residency varies widely between specialties. A straightforward one such as internal medicine may only last three years, with additional sub-speciality training later. However, a psychiatry residency could last as long as seven years.
Most of the major characters on House, M.D. have established their specialty:
- Gregory House - Nephrology, Infectious Disease, Pathology
- James Wilson - Oncology
- Lisa Cuddy - Endocrinology
- Eric Foreman - Neurology
- Robert Chase - Cardiology, Intensive Care, Surgery
- Allison Cameron - Immunology
- Lawrence Kutner - Sports Medicine
- Chris Taub - Plastic Surgery
- Remy Hadley - Internal Medicine
- Amber Volakis - Interventional Radiology
- Jeffrey Cole - Medical Genetics