Medicine is a field of study that studies the management of diseases affecting humans using scientific methods; there are so many branches of medicine and under each branch of medicine, there are subspecialties. In this article, I will briefly summarize what medicine is all about and then discuss each specialty of medicine in detail.
The type of Medicine referred to in this article is also called Internal Medicine (uses less or noninvasive procedures on patients) – which is different from surgery.
What is Medicine?
Medicine is the Science and Art of the treatment of diseases and prevention of occurrence of diseases. Medicine has so many branches or areas of specialty and in turn, each specialty or branch of medicine has a sub-specialty. These branches of medicine are so in order to allow specialization for the doctor to be able to focus his or her energy on one aspect rather than having a shallow general which may not be beneficial in the treatment of patients due to the complexity of the parts of the human body.
Medicine is a science, in that it uses scientific principles to treat diseases and medicine is also an art because it requires apprenticeship to learn the practical aspect. Without learning from clinical activities, the knowledge of reading books alone will not help much in medical practice.
Medicine treats diseases with little or no invasive procedures done, whereas surgery largely requires an invasive procedure to be performed in order to treat diseases.
Branches of Medicine
- Internal Medicine
- Family Medicine
- Community Medicine
Each of these branches of Medicine has subspecialties which are listed below.
Subspecialties of Branches of Medicine
In internal medicine, you have the following subspecialties
- Gastroenterology: This refers to the study of the digestive system and its related organs such as the Liver and spleen. The Gastroenterologist studies diseases and treatment that borders around the Mouth, the esophagus, the stomach, the large and small intestines including the liver and spleen. Anything that affects the digestion of food is important to the Gastroenterologist. This aspect of medicine manages diseases with symptoms and signs such as jaundice, vomiting (bloody or non-bloody), diarrhea, constipation, intussusception, diverticula of the Gastrointestinal tract, gastric ulcer, and many more.
A doctor that specializes in gastroenterology is called a Gastroenterologist.
- Infectious diseases: This is the aspect of medicine that deals with diseases that can spread from one person to another. These infectious diseases include HIV/AIDS, Measles, Tuberculosis, and others. Their aspect of study may encompass infectious diseases that affect other parts of the human body.
- Dermatology: This aspect of medicine studies the skin and its appendages (related parts such as the hair and nails). They deal with diseases such as Malassezia, acne, Tinea capitis, and treatment of skin reactions and allergies. A doctor that specializes in dermatology is called a Dermatologist.
- Neurology: This is the Nervous System aspect of Medicine where diseases such as paralysis, myasthenia gravis, multiple sclerosis, and others are treated. A doctor of Neurology is called a Neurologist.
- Endocrinology: this aspect of Medicine deals with diseases affecting the hormone-producing organs such as the thyroid gland, the adrenal, parathyroid, pituitary, pancreas, and many others. It treats and manages diseases such as Diabetes mellitus, Cushing’s disease, Cushing syndrome, Galactorrhea, and many more. An Endocrinologist is a doctor who has had professional training in endocrinology.
- Pulmonology: This is the study of the pulmonary system; it manages diseases affecting the respiratory system such as Asthma, Bronchitis, Bronchiolitis, Hydrothorax, Pneumothorax, and others. A doctor of Pulmonology is called a Pulmonologist.
- Cardiology: A specialty of medicine that deals with the heart and the blood vessels. It manages congenital and acquired heart diseases, heart failure, heart attack, thrombosis, hypertension, and other related cardiovascular diseases. A doctor who specializes in cardiology is called a Cardiologist.
- Nephrology: an aspect of medicine that borders on the diseases affecting the kidneys, the ureters, urinary bladder, and urethra. Together, these organs are called the Genitourinary system of the body. A doctor who specializes in Nephrology is called a Nephrologist.
- Oncology: the study of tumors (whether malignant or benign tumors). It could be a tumor affecting any of the organs of any of the listed subspecialties above. A doctor who specializes in Oncology is called an Oncologist.
Paediatric Branch of Medicine
This is the aspect of medicine that deals with children of age 0 19 years. It manages diseases that pertain to children. Among all the subspecialties mentioned under Internal medicine above, Paediatricians can decide to specialize in any of the subspecialties such as pediatric endocrinology, paediatric cardiology, paediatric oncology, and many more. A doctor who specializes in Paediatric medicine is called a Paediatrician.
Gynecology Branch of Medicine
Gynecology is the study of the management of diseases affecting Women. It involves other fields of medicine earlier mentioned above such as Oncology, Endocrinology, Infertility, and all other branches of medicine but only in relation to the health of Women. A doctor who specializes in Gynecology is called a Gynecologist.
Just like gynecology, Obstetric medicine deals with any disease that affects pregnant women alone. This time, it is not women but pregnant women. Gynecology and Obstetrics are often seen as one branch of medicine but in practice, they are two different fields of study. A doctor who specializes in Obstetric medicine is called an Obstetrician.
This is a branch of medicine that deals with diseases affecting Men alone. This aspect of Medicine is not common because diseases affecting men can easily be managed by other specialists in Internal Medicine and do not require special attention as Women and Pregnant women. A doctor who specializes in Andrology is called an Andrologist
Psychiatry is a branch of medicine that deals with mental abnormalities or disorders affecting humans. It deals with diseases such as Mania, Depression, Schizophrenia, Substance abuse, Amnesia, and anything that affects the perception of normal occurrences around us, our orientation to time, place, person, and judgment. It is the beautiful branch of medicine that can explain why people act the way they do as written by Tim Lahaye.
A doctor who specializes in Psychiatry is called a Psychiatrist.
Family medicine borders around general medicine without specific knowledge just one but wholistic knowledge on all aspects of medicine. Family medicine is just like a Jack of all trades but master of none. This may sound derogatory but it is not. Family medicine doctors are specialists too in their own field, but they study almost every aspect of medicine just as it is done while still in medical school as a student. This study of different aspects of medicine gives family medicine doctors an idea about how diseases present in different organs. It makes them be able to treat minor cases and for the ones that require a specialist, they are the doctors that give a referral to a specialist because the patient may not know what organ is involved and what specialist to meet. Therefore, the Family medicine doctors are the ones commonly referred to as General Practitioners or general physicians of Family doctors of Family physicians.
Family medicine as its name implies also manages cases affecting the family such as family planning and many others.
Pathology Branch of Medicine
Pathology is a specialized branch of medicine that tends to be different in that, it studies abnormalities, disorders, and diseases without treating them but purely to diagnose the diseases. It is just like the Medical laboratory science of medicine. Pathology tells you how cells react to injury, how a disease starts and how it continues and how it ends. It shows how cancerous cells start and how they progress. This is different from other aspects of medicine in that, other aspects seek to treat the patient but pathology seeks to find why diseases behave the way they do and also helps to classify whether a cell, organ, or tissue is normal or cancerous. Pathologists help other doctors in treating patients by giving the definitive diagnosis of the disease before the doctors proceed with definitive treatment.
Sub-branches of Pathology
- Histopathology: this aspect deals with the structure and function of cells, tissues, and organs. A doctor who specializes in Histopathology is called a Histopathologist.
- Chemical Pathology: studies the derangement of electrolytes, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, and other chemical compounds in the body such as glucose, vitamins, zinc, iron, and many more. Chemical pathologies give diagnosis by analyzing chemical compounds derangements and how they affect health. A doctor who specializes in Chemical pathology is called a Chemical pathologist.
- Haematology: the aspect of pathology that deals with abnormalities or disorders of the blood and related systems such as bone marrow that can affect blood production, distribution, function, and destruction. It manages disease conditions such as Sickle cell anemia, Leukemia, bone marrow suppression, etc. A doctor who specializes in Haematology is called a Haematologist.
- Medical Microbiology: studies how microscopic organisms can cause disease and how to diagnose the organisms with the related diseases they cause. It studies organisms such as viruses, bacteria, fungi, etc. A doctor who specializes in Medical Microbiology is called a Medical Microbiologist and not a Microbiologist which refers to the scientist who studied microbiology.
Radiology Branch of Medicine
Radiology is the use of radiation for diagnosis, therapy, and monitoring of disease conditions. In addition to these radiations, other things such as sound waves and magnetic waves are also used. Common procedures in radiology include the use of x-rays, ultrasonography, magnetic resonance imaging, and computed tomography. Radiology can be used to date pregnancy, view fractures, view foreign bodies, and monitor the growth of tumors. A doctor who specializes in Radiology is called a Radiologist.
This is also known as Community Health or Public Health. It is the branch of medicine that primarily seeks to prevent the occurrence of diseases; it is concerned about the health of a group of people especially during outbreaks rather than a single person at a time. It is also the branch of medicine concerned with curtailing disease outbreaks, epidemics, or vaccination of children and adults among populations. The focus of Community medicine is to protect the general community against diseases. A doctor who specializes in Community medicine is called a Medical officer of health, a Chief Medical Officer, or even a Surgeon General depending on his or her level of jurisdiction.
The community medicine doctors are the ones seen at the airports, seaports, and land borders that help in quarantine and regulation of health across borders in order to prevent the importation or exportation of diseases to other countries. They fit working with World Health Organisation (WHO), UNICEF, etc.