Essential qualities of a good physician

What is internal medicine?

Uncover the scope, expertise, and significance of internal medicine in the broader landscape of healthcare.

Internal medicine is a discipline that focuses on the care of adults and involves trained physicians handling a broad range of medical conditions across a variety of organ systems. Often known as internists or general internists, doctors specializing in internal medicine are recognized as being experts in diagnostics, the treatment of chronic illnesses, health promotion, and disease prevention. While some physicians make a career in the practice of internal medicine, other internists go on to specialize in a more focused area of medicine, such as gastroenterology or cardiology.

MUA is an accredited medical school that  provides both an excellent basic sciences curriculum and outstanding clinical opportunities for students wishing to pursue a career in internal medicine. Our beautiful campus on the island of Nevis  in the Caribbean offers a distraction-free learning environment where personalized learning through small class sizes is a priority. To help you decide whether our program is right for you, we have put together this in-depth guide into the practice of  internal medicine,  and the salary range that you can expect to earn  if you choose to become a general internist.

What does internal medicine mean?

General internal medicine looks closely at how all the systems in the body work together and covers an extremely broad range of core organ systems and conditions affecting adults. This wide reaching branch of medicine combines the analytical examination of laboratory science with a personalized approach to the various elements of adult medicine. As a result, internists are able to treat everything from common illnesses to chronic conditions and more complex medical issues.

The two main clinical career options for internal medicine doctors are primary care general internal medicine and hospital medicine. Primary care general internal medicine is where internists look after their patients over a long period of time to provide preventative, acute and chronic care wherever required. This form of care often takes place in an ambulatory setting such as an independent practice. Hospital medicine, as the name suggests, is based in a hospital setting and physicians care  for patients who need hospital-level care for more complex or serious conditions. Physicians whose primary professional focus is caring for hospitalized patients only while they are in the hospital are called hospitalists. 

Training in internal medicine provides the core expertise required for physicians looking for  a broad knowledge of adult healthcare. As a result, it is not unusual  for general internists to change their clinical focus or setting throughout their career. This can mean shifting from ambulatory to hospital based care, or may mean shifting focus towards a specific subspeciality or a multispecialty approach.

Internal medicine subspecialties

Internal medicine provides physicians with the perfect foundation to specialize in other areas of internal medicine. There are many different subspecialities that internists can choose to focus on after their core residency training. Some of the most popular subspecialties, which are certified exclusively by the American Board of Internal Medicine, include:

  • Cardiology
  • Endocrinology
  • Gastroenterology
  • Hematology
  • Infection diseases
  • Nephrology
  • Oncology
  • Pulmonary disease
  • Rheumatology

Additional subspecialties that are certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine in conjunction with other specialty boards, include:

  • Adolescent medicine
  • Allergy and immunology
  • Critical care medicine
  • Geriatric medicine
  • Palliative care medicine
  • Neurocritical care
  • Sleep medicine
  • Sports medicine

Internal medicine physician salary

The average salary for an internal medicine doctor is just over $224,000, although this can range from $99,000 to $328,000, depending on the experience and training of the individual doctor, as well as which state they are working in. For example, internal medicine physicians can expect to earn an average of $218,000 in Miami, FL, and $222,000 in Dallas, TX, but the average rises to $253,000 in Boston, MA, and $280,000 in San Francisco, CA.

Physicians who go on to train in a subspecialty can also expect a higher salary as an internal medicine doctor. For example, the average base salary in the United States for a gastroenterologist is just under $278,000. Internists who have gone on to specialize in cardiology can expect to earn even more, with a base salary of $313,000, while a typical pulmonologist has a base salary of $292,000.

How to become an internal medicine physician

In order to become an internal medicine doctor, students must graduate from an accredited medical school and then complete an internal medicine residency. Those who wish to specialize further in a particular subspecialty will also have to complete fellowship training in their focus area.

Internal medicine residencies

After graduation from medical school, basic training in internal medicine requires the completion of three years of residency training in a hospital or another qualified clinical setting. Following this training, residents are then eligible for ECFMG board certification in internal medicine and can begin practicing general internal medicine. Graduates seeking a residency are encouraged to apply to a minimum of 25 programs to get the best chance of success, as competition is high.

If you are applying from overseas, it is also beneficial to participate in an observership rotation in a clinical setting to become familiar with clinical practice settings in the United States before submitting your application. Taking part in an observership can also help international graduates by providing them with the opportunity to gain a reference from qualified physicians for the application process.

Internal medicine fellowships

Following three years of residency training and certification, internists who do not wish to practice general internal medicine can choose to specialize in an internal medicine subspecialty. This pathway requires graduates to take part in an additional 1 to 3 years of fellowship training. To secure a fellowship, you will need to participate in the subspecialty match offered through the National Residency Matching Program (NRMP), which will match you with a suitable fellowship around 6 months before the fellowship program is due to begin. To give yourself the best chance of securing the fellowship you want, it is best to make a decision about whether you wish to pursue this path during the second year of your residency training. Committing early will also help you adapt the rest of your residency to better suit the fellowship you hope to pursue once you have completed your training.

Should I become an internal medicine physician?

Deciding whether or not to become an internal medicine doctor is down to your personal interests and plans for your career. The path of internal medicine is chosen by some students because it provides them with the chance to enjoy a varied career that covers diagnostics, treatments, health promotion and prevention of disease in adult patients with a range of conditions. The broad nature of internal medicine means you are likely to learn about and deal with a broad spectrum of organ systems and experience an exciting variety of disease and illnesses. Training in general internal medicine can also provide a strong foundation for physicians wishing to further subspecialize in other areas of adult care, such as endocrinology, oncology or cardiology.

If you feel you may fit into one of these categories, MUA could be the ideal choice for you. Established over 20 years ago, MUA offers the systems-based U.S. curriculum taught  in small classes with one-on-one interaction with professors. MUA’s excellent clinical program helps prepare students for their upcoming residencies, and the school has an excellent track record of outstanding residency placements across the United States and Canada. Visit our website to learn more about our MD program or to find out how to apply.

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