Becoming A Physician: Information from the American Medical Association
There may be some visitors to this blog who after reading this blog and the host of other fine medical blogs available, would like to consider becoming a physician. There are some basic ABC information that you need to know first. A great source for that information is to go to the American Medical Association website and read about becoming an MD. There you will find in addition to “How do you become a physician?” which I have posted below, the following topics which are also present: Preparing for medical school, Applying to medical school, Paying for medical school, Choosing a specialty, Medical glossary and Frequently asked questions. Please go there to see what is necessary for you to start a career as a physician.
How do you become a physician?
The education of physicians in the United States is lengthy and involves undergraduate education, medical school and graduate medical education. (The term 'graduate medical education' [GME] includes residency and fellowship training; the American Medical Association does not use the term "postgraduate education.")
· Undergraduate education: Four years at a college or university to earn a BS or BA degree, usually with a strong emphasis on basic sciences, such as biology, chemistry, and physics (some students may enter medical school with other areas of emphasis).
· Medical school (undergraduate medical education): Four years of education at one of the U.S. medical schools accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME). Four years at one of the LCME-accredited U.S. medical schools, consisting of preclinical and clinical parts. After completing medical school, students earn their doctor of medicine degrees (MDs), although they must complete additional training before practicing on their own as a physician. (Note: Some physicians receive a doctor of osteopathic medicine [DO] degree from a college of osteopathic medicine.)
· Residency program (graduate medical education): Through a national matching program, newly graduated MDs enter into a residency program that is three to seven years or more of professional training under the supervision of senior physician educators. The length of residency training varies depending on the specialty chosen: family practice, internal medicine, and pediatrics, for example, require 3 years of training; general surgery requires 5 years. (Some refer to the first year of residency as an "internship"; the AMA no longer uses this term.)
· Fellowship: One to three years of additional training in a subspecialty is an option for some doctors who want to become highly specialized in a particular field, such as gastroenterology, a subspecialty of internal medicine and of pediatrics, or child and adolescent psychiatry, a subspecialty of psychiatry.
After completing undergraduate, medical school and graduate medical education, a physician still must obtain a license to practice medicine from a state or jurisdiction of the United States in which they are planning to practice. They apply for the permanent license after completing a series of exams and completing a minimum number of years of graduate medical education.
The majority of physicians also choose to become board certified, which is an optional, voluntary process. Certification ensures that the doctor has been tested to assess his or her knowledge, skills, and experience in a specialty and is deemed qualified to provide quality patient care in that specialty. There are two levels of certification through 24 specialty medical boards — doctors can be certified in 36 general medical specialties and in an additional 88 subspecialty fields. Most certifications must be renewed after six to 10 years, depending on the specialty.
Learning does not end when physicians complete their residency or fellowship training. Doctors continue to receive credits for continuing medical education, and some states require a certain number of CME credits per year to ensure the doctor's knowledge and skills remain current. CME requirements vary by state, by professional organizations, and by hospital medical staff organizations.
—Some of the above information was adapted from "Your Doctor's Education" in JAMA, September 6, 2000.
By the way, I know from experience that some patients really don’t know what goes into the education and practice development of their physician. To be a good and educated partner with your doctor taking care of your illness, I would advise patients to go to the AMA website linked above to learn about how their doctors came to where they are. ..Maurice.