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Doctors: Specialties and Training (cont.)

Medical School Training

Most medical schools require a minimum of three to four years of college to apply. Most require college graduation, although a few programs combine college or graduate school and medical school. In the United States, medical school lasts four years and includes two years of basic science courses such as the following:

  • Anatomy
  • Neuroanatomy
  • Histology
  • Embryology
  • Behavioral sciences
  • Genetics
  • Physiology (neurophysiology)
  • Biochemistry
  • Microbiology
  • Pharmacology
  • Pathology

This is followed by two years of clinical sciences in which the medical student sees and treats patients under the close supervision of fully trained physicians. During these two years, the medical students usually spend one year of two-month-long rotations in specialties such as the following:

  • Pediatrics
  • Internal medicine
  • General surgery
  • Obstetrics and gynecology
  • Psychiatry
  • Family practice
  • Emergency medicine

A year of elective choices follows in any of about 50 specialties and subspecialties such as the following:

  • Orthopedic surgery
  • Plastic surgery
  • Ophthalmology
  • Neurosurgery
  • Oncology
  • Radiation oncology
  • Cardiology
  • Nephrology
  • Neonatology
  • Rheumatology
  • Pulmonology
  • Infectious diseases
  • Endocrinology

In the United States, medical students are required to pass national board exams that assure they have a firm grasp of basic and clinical sciences. When students have graduated from medical school and received their medical degree, and passed these tests, they are qualified to advance to residency training. The first postgraduate year of residency is often referred to as internship.

There are two types of medical schools in the United States: allopathic and osteopathic. Students from both medical training programs must pass the same national board exam and may choose to pursue careers in any medical specialty or subspecialty. In the U.S., both types of graduates are equally qualified to practice medicine.

  • Allopathic students receive a medical doctorate (MD).
  • Osteopathic students receive the equivalent medical degree, a doctorate in osteopathic medicine (DO). Medical schools that train doctors of osteopathic medicine tend to place a greater emphasis on training physicians to be family physicians, although any specialty residency (such as those listed below) can be entered after graduation. Their education is the same as allopathic (MD) school, but in addition, it includes courses in musculoskeletal manipulation and nutrition.
  • Medical school curriculums are constantly being reviewed and revised to further the training of future physicians. Many schools will have their students learn basic clinical skills (for example, physical examination) during the first two years of basic science training.




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Physician Suicide »

On average, the United States loses the equivalent of at least one entire medical school class each year to suicide (reliable estimates are as many as 400 physicians).

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