In the last couple of decades the field of medicine has witnessed rapid advances that have proven to be of great benefit to patients in particular and mankind at large. Today many diseases have either been completely eradicated (e.g Smallpox) and many have been controlled (e.g Leprosy). The growth in the field has also seen a surge in doctors specializing in various fields of medicine. Even within a speciality there are number of sub-specialist. It is now not unusual to see a general surgeon specializing in just breast diseases or a Urologist just doing transplant surgery or andrology.
Specialty in a branch of medical science is done by medical graduate after completing medical school. Normally it takes them another three to five years to qualify as a specialist in the chosen subject. Surgeons normally take longer than physicians to get trained and start a practice.
Ignorance about which doctor one should see for a specific condition often means seeing the wrong doctor for the condition. These type of lapses delays and escalates the cost of treatment.
In countries where there are no structured health delivery systems such as in developing countries and where patients have to fend for themselves, it is extremely important for them to know a little bit on how the field of medicine operates and what does all these different medical fields mean to the public and the patients.
Specialities in the field of healthcare can be categorized into the following groups:
1. Doctors who are mainly physicians – example includes – General Physicians, Cardiologist, Nephrologist, Neurologist, Gasto-enterologist and Endocrinologists.
2. Doctors who are mainly surgeons – some example includes General Surgeon, Urologist, Orthopedicians, Neuro-surgeon and Cardio-thoracic Surgeon
3. Doctors who work as both physicians and surgeons – some examples are - Eye specialist, ENT specialist, Obstetrics and Gynecologist
4. Doctors who mainly do diagnostics and some of the examples includes pathologist, microbiologist, Geneticist and radiologist
5. Experts practicing in the medical field without a valid medical qualifications but who may have qualification from specialist societies include podiatrist, osteopaths, physiotherapist and Dieticians.
The following sections will describe these specialists and define their role in the everyday care of the patients.