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Both internists (physicians who specialize in internal medicine) and family practitioners (physicians who specialize in family medicine) have attended four years of medical school, completed a three-year residency and are licensed to practice by the state. The focus of work in residency is what differentiates the two areas. Either is a reasonable choice for your primary care physician.
Family Medicine doctors (family practitioners) are widely skilled with training in the care of patients at every stage of life, from birth through childhood, adulthood and old age. In residency, a family practitioner receives training on caring for the whole family, including pediatrics and OB/Gyn care. A family practitioner may be right for you if you are looking for a doctor for yourself and your children, or one who can transition your teen from his/her pediatrician to an adult primary care provider.
Internal Medicine physicians (internists) focus on the care of adults and elderly patients. Broadly, internists are “doctors for adults.” In residency, an internist trains solely on adult health and disease affecting adults, with emphasis on the management of chronic, complex or severe illnesses in patients ages 16 and older.
Both specialties treat a variety of illnesses and conditions, conduct health screenings and comprehensive physical exams, and provide primary, wellness and preventive healthcare. They can partner with you to monitor and manage long-term conditions. If you develop a condition that requires specialty care, they will refer you to the appropriate specialist(s).
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