Doctors of internal medicine, or internists, focus on adult medicine for patients ages 18 and older. At least three of their seven or more years of medical school and postgraduate training are dedicated to focused education on prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases that affect adults.
Although internists may act as primary care physicians, they are not "family physicians," "family practitioners," or "general practitioners," whose training is not solely concentrated on adults. The expertise of many internal medicine physicians may often include surgery, obstetrics and pediatrics.
Internists are equipped to diagnose and provide treatment options for a full spectrum of illnesses -- no matter how common or rare, or how simple or complex. They are specially trained to solve puzzling diagnostic problems and can handle severe chronic illnesses and situations where several different illnesses may strike at the same time. These physicians also 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.