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There are over 120 medical specialties and subspecialties. Therefore, sometimes it can be difficult to determine which one can best suit your health care needs. Often, this confusion centers around the services of an internal medicine physician. While there are some similarities, there are some notable differences between internal medicine and other specialties. First, let’s look at some of the most commonly asked questions about internal medicine.

What is internal medicine?

According to the American College of Physicians, internal medicine is a science that represents the best of both worlds. The specialty combines the analytical examination of laboratory science with a personalized, compassionate approach to adult medicine. This expertise enables doctors to treat both common illnesses and complex medical conditions. They also specialize in treating long-term chronic illnesses such as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Doctors who specialize in internal medicine are called internists or general internists. Internal medicine specialists also take a close look at how all the systems in the bodywork together as a whole because a problem in one area could cause complications in another.

Why is it called internal medicine?

It comes from the German word Innere Medizin. In the 1800s, German physicians were incorporating knowledge from the sciences of bacteriology (the study of bacteria), physiology (the study of how the body functions) and pathology (the study of diseases) into their treatment plans. Physicians found the more they understood these subjects, the better equipped they were to help their patients.

They were called internal medicine doctors or internists because they focused on the “inner” diseases instead of the external manifestations of those diseases.

What is the difference between an internist and an intern?

An internist is a physician who specializes in internal medicine. He or she is licensed and may have board certification.

An intern is a physician who has completed medical school but is still in training.

What type of training is required to be an internal medicine doctor?

In order to become an internist, graduates of medical school must complete a three-year internal medicine residency. After the residency, the physician can practice or choose to specialize further in a subspecialty such as infectious diseases or diabetes.

Do internal medicine physicians do yearly physicals?

Yes! In fact, at Raleigh Medical Group, we offer regular women’s and men’s health screenings. We want to establish long-term relationships with our patients so we can help them on their journey of wellness and be partners in their care.

What are some diseases that internal medicine doctors treat?

Our internists treat:

  • Diabetes
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Sinus infections
  • Allergies


In addition, we offer the following services:

  • Bone density screenings
  • Echocardiograms
  • Holter monitoring (heart rhythm monitoring)
  • Stress test
  • Ultrasound
  • Immunizations
  • Annual exams for Women and Men

Why is there confusion over the roles of family doctors vs. internal medicine physicians?

The confusion arises because most of the patients seen by family physicians are adults. Often, when their children are sick, parents take them to a pediatrician, a physician who specializes in treating children, instead of a general practitioner such as a family doctor.

However, sometimes family physicians do treat children. In fact, according to the American College of Physicians, 10-to-15 percent of family medicine patients are children. Family doctors may also see “tweens” or those in early adolescence. Internal medicine physicians only treat adults. However, at some internal medicine practices — such as Raleigh Medical Group — there are physicians who are family doctors. However, the doctors at our practice only treat adults, not children.

All internal medicine training must take place in both outpatient and inpatient settings. Internists also have extensive education in each of the internal medicine subspecialties — which include endocrinology, rheumatology, neurology and infectious diseases.


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