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Physician

Physicians are medical doctors who utilize a strong foundational knowledge in interdisciplinary life sciences to hear patient concerns, diagnose conditions, and ultimately treat patients.

Summary

Physicians, also known as medical doctors, or doctors, are a core member of the patient care team. Their main focus is to prevent illness, diagnose patients when ill, and provide the proper treatments to those patients who are in need. Physicians fall within a plethora of specialties to best serve as members of the patient care team, ranging from general healthcare practices to surgical and disease specialties.

Physicians also lead the way in medical research, collaborating with academic institutes and government entities to conduct research to benefit future patients. This leads to improving patient outcomes through studying previous patient outcomes, collecting data on previous patient treatments, and using well studied experimental treatments to combat illnesses long thought to have no treatment or conditions. 

As a major player in the patient care team, physicians have a huge leadership role among medical staff. Communication with nurses and medical assistants is key to ensure patients are well taken care of between physician visits. In addition to the physician, Physician Assistants (PAs) and Nurse Practitioners (NPs) often work in a collaborative care model with the physician to ensure patients are always able to be seen.

In addition to serving as medical doctors and scientists, physicians are also leaders of their communities. Serving in leadership roles within hospitals, medical organizations, and local advisory boards allows physicians to have an influence on public health and health systems through sharing their medical knowledge and experiences. This continues to be true at the highest levels of government, where doctors worth with government organizations such as the National Institute of Health (NIH) and Center for Disease Control (CDC). Both of these organizations work to research diseases and health conditions, regulate health guidelines for the United States, communicate with the general public regarding health, and more.

In the courtroom, businesses, and research labs, medical degrees also have a place to better serve communities. Combination degrees such as an MD-JD, MD-MBA, or MD-PhD allow doctors to utilize cross sectional areas of study and obtain more than one background to pursue a more unique field of study. This could include working in law, hospital administration, as a researcher or professor with a university, or more.

Educational Requirements

To become a physician, one must first obtain a Bachelor's degree in any field. The core requirement is that the AAMC Premed Course Requirements are filled, whether you complete your degree in English or Chemistry. Many share the wisdom of completing your Bachelors degree in what you are passionate in, no matter the field, to encourse a high GPA and take stress away from the prerequisite courses. Life science based degrees, such as Biology or Chemistry will often meet all of the prerequisites without additional courses needed outside the degree program. Note that there is no "Premed" major. 

Either near the end of your undergraduate education or shortly following, should you choose to take a gap year, you will need to take the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT). This is a required piece of the medical school application for both M.D. and D.O. degree granting programs. 

Students then apply to, and attend four years of medical school at an M.D. or D.O. degree granting medical school, studying various health foundations and practicing the basics of patient care. During this time, students will also take the first phase of the United States Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE) or the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination (COMLEX), depending on degree program and post-medical school plans. Near the end of medical school, students will take their second phase of the examinations and apply for residency; a three or more year program of specialized training in your desired medical field.

Residency programs place students based on The Match; a system where residency programs and students both rank choices of preference, and a computational algorithm makes choices to determine where students will spend their years of residency based on fit and preference. Residency programs are where doctors become doctors! They spend their time seeing patients and learning under practicing physicians full time, utilizing their skills they have learning up to this point. Some residency programs are three years in length, such as family medicine or pediatrics, while others require up to seven years in addition to even more training in the form of a fellowship after residency, such as neurosurgery.

Following residency and any potential fellowship years, a doctor has one final step. Upon completion of their board exams, they are ready to practice on their own! Board exams are meant to test one's knowledge in a specialty area to ensure an individual is competent to practice medicine in that specialty area. The boards assess the knowledge and skills of an examinee through a series of foundational questions in the field, and questions that test continuing education in the field.  

Salary Information 2023

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary of a Physician in 2023 was $239,200. An additional note is that compensation heavily varies depending on specialization within medicine. This difference between specialties can be as much as almost four hundred thousand a year!

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Information retrieved from Physician - Bureau of Labor Statistics.

 

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