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Health Care Career Discovery Summer Medical Institute



Physicians and Surgeons

The Science of Healing, The Art of Treating

What is the Role of Physicians and Surgeons?

Physicians and surgeons diagnose and treat injuries or illnesses. Physicians examine patients, take medical histories, prescribe medications, and order, perform, and interpret diagnostic tests. They often counsel patients on diet, hygiene, and preventive health care. Surgeons operate on patients to treat injuries, such as broken bones; diseases, such as cancerous tumors; and deformities, such as cleft palates.

Physicians and surgeons often work closely with other healthcare staff including physician assistants, registered nurses, and medical records and health information technicians.

What Types of Physicians/Surgeons are There?

There are two types of physicians:
M.D. (Medical Doctor) and D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine)

The following are some of the many types of physicians and surgeons:

General Pediatricians
Provide care for infants, children, teenagers, and young adults. They specialize in diagnosing and treating problems specific to younger people. Most pediatricians treat day-to-day illnesses, minor injuries, and infectious diseases and administer vaccinations. Some pediatricians specialize in pediatric surgery or serious medical conditions that commonly affect younger patients, such as autoimmune disorders or serious chronic ailments.

Family & General Physicians
Assess and treat a range of conditions that occur in everyday life. These conditions include anything from sinus and respiratory infections to broken bones. Family and general physicians typically have a base of regular, long-term patients. These doctors sometimes refer patients with more serious conditions to specialists or other healthcare facilities for additional care.

Use the same methods of treatment as M.D.s, including drugs and surgery, but D.O.s place additional emphasis on the body's musculoskeletal system, preventive medicine, and holistic (whole person) patient care. They are likely to be primary care physicians and can be found in all specialties. About 60 percent of D.O.’s specialize in primary care areas such as family medicine, internal medicine, OB/GYN, and pediatrics.

Specialize in treating injury, disease, and deformity through operations. Using a variety of instruments, and with patients under anesthesia, a surgeon corrects physical deformities, repairs bone and tissue after injuries, or performs preventive surgeries on patients. Although a large number perform general surgery, many surgeons choose to specialize in a specific area. Specialties include orthopedic surgery (the treatment of the musculoskeletal system), neurological surgery (treatment of the brain and nervous system), cardiovascular surgery, and plastic or reconstructive surgery. Like other physicians, surgeons also examine patients, perform and interpret diagnostic tests, and counsel patients on preventive healthcare. Some specialist physicians also perform surgery.

General Internists
Diagnose and provide nonsurgical treatment for a range of problems that affect internal organ systems such as the stomach, kidneys, liver, and digestive tract. Internists use a variety of diagnostic techniques to treat patients through medication or hospitalization. They may refer patients to other specialists when more complex care is required. They work mostly with adult patients.

Obstetricians and Gynecologists (OB/GYNs)
Provide care related to pregnancy and the female reproductive system. OB/GYNs specialize in childbirth. They treat and counsel women throughout their pregnancy, and they deliver babies.  They also diagnose and treat health issues specific to women, such as breast cancer, cervical cancer, hormonal disorders, and symptoms related to menopause.

Specialize in mental health. They diagnose and treat mental illnesses through a combination of personal counseling (psychotherapy), psychoanalysis, hospitalization, and medication. Psychotherapy involves regular discussions with patients about their problems. The psychiatrist helps them find solutions through changes in their behavioral patterns, exploring their past experiences, or group and family therapy sessions. Psychoanalysis involves long-term psychotherapy and counseling for patients. Psychiatrists may prescribe medications to correct chemical imbalances that cause some mental illnesses.

Focus on the care of surgical patients and pain relief. They administer the drugs (anesthetics) that reduce or eliminate the sensation of pain during an operation or other medical procedure. During surgery, they are responsible for adjusting the amount of anesthetic as needed and monitoring the patient's heart rate, body temperature, blood pressure, and breathing. They also work outside of the operating room, providing pain relief in the intensive care unit, during labor and delivery, and for those who suffer from chronic pain.  Anesthesiologists work with other physicians and surgeons to decide on treatments and procedures before, during, and after surgery.

Specialists in diagnosing and treating hay fever and other allergies

Heart specialists

Skin specialists

Specialists in the digestive system

Study body tissue to see if it is normal

Review and interpret x-ray pictures and deliver radiation treatments for cancer and other illnesses

What is the Work Environment?

Outpatient clinics or offices
Group practices
Health care organizations
Skilled nursing, extended care or sub-acute facilities
Education or research centers

What are the Educational Requirements?

4 Years of Undergraduate School
Most applicants to medical school have at least a bachelor's degree, and many have advanced degrees. While a specific major is not required, all students must complete undergraduate work in biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, and English. Students also take courses in the humanities and social sciences. Some students volunteer at local hospitals or clinics to gain experience in a healthcare setting.

4 Years of Medical School
Medical schools are highly competitive. Most applicants must submit transcripts, scores from the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), and letters of recommendation. Schools also consider an applicant’s personality, leadership qualities, and participation in extracurricular activities. Most schools require applicants to interview with members of the admissions committee.

Post Medical School Training
3 to 8 Years of Internship and Residency Programs (depending on the specialty)

Required License:
All states require physicians and surgeons to be licensed; requirements vary by state. To qualify for a license, candidates must graduate from an accredited medical school, complete residency training in their specialty, and pass written and practical exams.

M.D. - U.S. Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE)

D.O. - Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination (COMLEX-USA)

Which are the top 10 Medical Schools in the US?
#1 Harvard University
#2 Johns Hopkins University
#3 University of California - San Francisco
#4 Duke University
#5 University of Pennsylvania
#6 University of Michigan - Ann Arbor
#7 Washington University in St. Louis
#8 University of Washington
#9 Columbia University
#10 Yale University

What is the Average Annual Salary?

Wages of physicians and surgeons are among the highest of all occupations.

Primary Care Physicians: $202,392 (total median annual compensation)
Medical Physician/Surgeon Specialist: $356,885 (total median annual compensation)

What is the Employment Outlook for Physicians and Surgeons?

Employment of physicians and surgeons is expected to grow by 24 percent from 2010 to 2020, faster than the average for all occupations. Job growth will occur because of the continued expansion of healthcare-related industries. The growing and aging population is expected to drive overall growth in the demand for physician services as consumers continue to seek high levels of care that uses the latest technologies, diagnostic tests, and therapies. Many medical schools are increasing their enrollments based on perceived higher demand for physicians. 


physician photo