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PHYSICIAN SPECIALTY PROFILES


ALLERGY AND IMMUNOLOGY

A physician specializing in Allergy and Immunology is trained to diagnose, evaluate, and manage diseases and disorders involving the immune system.1 The conditions treated by an allergy-immunologist include: “asthma, anaphylaxis, rhinitis, eczema and adverse reactions to drugs, foods and insect stings as well as immune deficiency diseases (both acquired and congenital), defects in host defense and problems related to autoimmune disease, organ transplantation or malignancies of the immune system.”1 The field of Allergy and Immunology is expanding with recent advances in our understanding of the immune system.1

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An ideal allergy-immunologist is someone who…

  • …enjoys improving patients’ quality of life by treating persistent, often overlooked immunological disorders.
  • … enjoys performing clinical trials with the latest allergy medications and immunotherapeutic techniques.
  • …exhibits a strong interest in the workings of the body’s natural defense system.

Training:

Allergy-immunologists require three years of residency training in either internal medicine or pediatrics.1 They must then complete a two-year fellowship in allergy-immunology.1

Average compensation:

$204,0002

Main Advantages:

  • Most diseases are treatable, controllable, and often overlooked by other specialties; you are improving individuals’ quality of life3
  • Specialty combines research and clinical applications in an intellectually stimulating manner4
  • Allows for a controllable lifestyle compared to most medical specialties4

Main Disadvantages:

  • Applying for research grants can be tedious and difficult4
  • Many of the clinical cases seen may involve common allergies that are not particularly interesting to treat

Sources:

  1. AAMC Medical Specialties
  2. MD Salary
  3. A Day in the Life of an Allergist
  4. Next Gen MD

ANESTHESIOLOGY

An Anesthesiologist provides “pain relief and maintenance or restoration of a stable condition” during and following operations.1 Anesthesiologists are responsible for assessing patients’ risk prior to and during surgery, as well as monitoring patient recovery.1

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An ideal anesthesiologist is someone who…

  • …is careful and thorough during preoperative examinations of patients2
  • …reacts swiftly and appropriately to unforeseen complications during a procedure2
  • …is effective at communicating with other physicians, particularly while in the OR2

Training:

Anesthesiologists require four years of residency training.1 They may specialize in critical care medicine, hospice and palliative medicine, pain medicine.1

Common Work Schedule:

According to a 2003 survey, anesthesiologists work an average of 61 hours each week.3­

Average compensation:

$331,000 to $423,5071

Main Advantages:

  • Being able to treat critically ill patients and relieve their pain
  • High compensation compared to most medical specialties
  • Patients’ lives are directly in your hands during surgery

Main Disadvantages:

  • Long hours that are not always predictable
  • Lack of continuity of care; oftentimes you will only see a patient pre-operatively and then during surgery

Sources:

    1. AAMC medical specialties
    2. Washington University in St. Louis Residency Information
    3. Medfriends

DERMATOLOGY

Within the past decade, there has been an increasing trend for future doctors to be attracted to specialties with “controllable lifestyles” – specialties that allow “personal time free of practice requirements for leisure, family, and avocational pursuits and control of total weekly hours spent on professional responsibilities.”1 Of these few “controllable lifestyle” specialties, Dermatology is one of the most notable. But the lifestyle of a dermatologist is only one side of the specialty. Intellectually, Dermatology is a field that challenges you to specialize in the treatment of disorders of the largest organ in the human body – the skin.2 Dermatologists are trained to diagnose and treat conditions like skin cancers, allergic and non-allergic skin disorders, infectious diseases, and cosmetic disorders.3

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Dermatology is ideal for someone who…

      • … would like to be an expert in a very specialized area of medicine.2
      • … wants to be able to see the results of treatment.2
      • … does not want to serve as a point person for general care, conduct daily rounds, or be available for overnight calls.2

Training:

Dermatology requires 3 to 4 years of residency training.2,3 In order for a resident to do a 3 year program, they must complete one year of broad-based clinical training first.3 Entrance into a Dermatology residency is competitive. In 2006 there were only 107 Dermatology residency programs, and most had only 6 residents per year.4 Once residency is complete, those wanting to subspecialize can undergo 1 to 2 years of additional training in the following subspecialties: Mohs Surgery, Dermatopathology, Clinical and Laboratory Dermatological Immunology, and Pediatric Dermatology. 2,3

Common Work Schedule:

Dermatologists reportedly work an average of 45.5 hours per week, which (along with Pathology) is the lowest amount out of any specialty listed in a 2003 study.1 Generally, dermatologists do not have to perform hospital rounds or take overnight calls.2 However, while Dermatology seems to allow more time flexibility than other specialties, some dermatologists do work more than the average by taking on additional responsibilities such as teaching, research, and taking ER calls.5 Average Compensation: Annual salary ranges from $287,832 to $385,953.3

Main Advantages:

      • Controllable Lifestyle – Lower work hours means that dermatologists have more time outside of their jobs to live their lives. This was seen as a big plus by students entering Dermatology, who cited lifestyle as being more influential in their career choice than did students who entered other specialties.5
      • High Career Satisfaction – The vast majority of those who enter the field of Dermatology are happy with their career decision. In one survey, 93% of dermatologists were glad that they pursued a career in Dermatology.6 And in another survey of women physicians in 18 specialties, dermatologists were the most satisfied and the least likely to change specialties if given the chance.7
      • Growing Diversity in the Field – Women now make up the majority of those entering Dermatology programs, leading to an increasing amount of women practicing Dermatology.5

Main Disadvantages:

      • Low Public Perception – In a recent study, 400 nonmedical respondents established a prestige hierarchy of the specialties in the medical profession. Dermatology (and Psychiatry) were on the bottom.2
      • Lack of Diversity of Clientele – While dermatologists are able to serve a variety of patients, the diversity of clients who actually go to dermatologists’ offices can be limited. In one paper, researchers found that compared to other office-based physicians, dermatologists’ clients were more likely to be older, white, have private insurance, and be seen in non-rural areas.8
      • Uncertain Future of the Doctor-Patient Relationship – While dermatologists currently maintain a high level of patient contact, the growing field of Teledermatology – in which dermatologists diagnose conditions using cameras or photographs rather than interacting with patients directly – could cause the doctor-patient relationship to diminish in the future.2

Sources:

      1. Dorsey, E. R., David Jarjoura, and Gregory W. Rutecki. "Influence of Controllable Lifestyle on Recent Trends in Specialty Choice by US Medical Students." Journal of the American Medical Association 290.9 (2003): 1173-178.
      2. Freeman, Brian. The Ultimate Guide to Choosing a Medical Specialty. New York: Lange Medical/ McGraw Hill, 2004.
      3. AAMC Medical Specialties

EMERGENCY MEDICINE

A physician specializing in Emergency Medicine is responsible for “the immediate decision making and action necessary to prevent death or any further disability…” in the emergency room.1 Emergency physicians treat a wide variety of acute illnesses and injuries.

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An ideal emergency physician is someone who…

      • …enjoys treating a wide variety of acute, often severe, injuries and illnesses.
      • …is able to work in a fast-paced, high-pressure environment.2
      • …enjoys treating patients of all age groups.2

Training:

Emergency physicians require three years of residency training.1 One to two additional years of training are required for specialization in one of the following subspecialties: sports medicine, pediatric emergency medicine, EMS-pre-hospital, disaster medicine, medical toxicology, emergency ultrasound/imaging, palliative care, and critical care.2

Common Work Schedule:

According to a 2003 survey, on average, emergency physicians work about 46 hours each week.3­

Average compensation:

$188,111 to $246,0004

Main Advantages:

      • The diagnosis of many cases is unknown, therefore can present an interesting clinical challenge5
      • The shift-schedule of ER work ensures that emergency physicians will not be on-call once they leave the emergency department5
      • There is rarely a boring moment in the ER5

Main Disadvantages:

      • The majority of cases seen are not actually emergencies5
      • Deaths in the ER are common5

Sources:

1.  AAMC Medical Specialties

2.  Washington University in St. Louis Residency Information

3. Medfriends

4.  Merritt Hawkins, Modern Healthcare Physician Compensation Review

5.  Emergency Medicine Pros and Cons

4. Wu, Jashin J., Claudia C. Ramirez, Carol A. Alonso, Natalia Mendoza, Brian Berman, and Stephen K. Tyring. "Dermatology Residency Program Characteristics That Correlate With Graduates Selecting an Academic Dermatology Career." Archives of Dermatology 142 (2006): 845-50.

5. Resneck, Jr., Jack S. "The Influence of Controllable Lifestyle on Medical Student Specialty Choice: a Dermatologist's Perspective." Virtual Mentor: American Medical Association Journal of Ethics 8.8 (2006): 529-32.

6. Clayton, R., T. Lambert, and S. M. Burge. "Career Choices in Dermatology." Clinical and Experimental Dermatology 35 (2009): 86-90.

7. Frank, Erica, Julia E. McMurray, Mark Linzer, and Lisa Elon. "Career Satisfaction of US Women Physicians." Archives of Internal Medicine 159 (1999): 1417-426.

8. Stern, Robert S. "Dermatologists and Office-Based Care of Dermatologic Disease in the 21st Century." Journal of Investigative Dermatology Symposium Proceedings 9 (2004): 126-30.


GERIATRICS

As people age, their bodies' change. Their older, more fragile bodies are likely to experience health related problems. The elderly are at risk for not only ongoing and reoccurring problems, but also to sudden, unexpected problems. The health of the elderly is unpredictable, as they tend to have multiple health related problems at one time. As people are living longer and longer, there is a greater need for Geriatricians. The main goal of a Geriatrician is to support the health and well-being of the individual and help them live self sufficient and independent lives. Most importantly, Geriatricians prevent and treat any diseases that the elderly may encounter.

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Geriatrics is ideal for someone who...

  • Can emotionally handle the death of a patient
    • The elderly enjoy telling stories and getting to know their doctors, which can make their death more personal
  • Must have the patience to work with the elderly
  • Must be able to help patients combat multiple and unexpected diseases that were attained throughout their lifetime [1]

Training:
Geriatricians usually start as primary care doctors. After medical school, their residency program can last anywhere from 3-8 years. They learn to care for all age groups and later continue with specialty training. Geriatricians are required to have the Board Certification in Internal Medicine or Geriatric care 1.

Common Work Schedule:
Geriatricians work in clean, comfortable offices in private practices and hospitals. They often visit patients in long term care facilities, or they are physicians working in the long term care facilities. Geriatricians tend to work during normal business hours and days. Physicians who own their own practice have more control over their working conditions 2.

Average Compensation:
$150,000 - $170,000 in the United States 1

Main Advantages:

  • Geriatricians are said to be greatly fulfilled at work because of the amount of gratitude they receive from their patients and their families
  • There are not may Geriatricians currently and the number of Geriatricians will continue to decrease in relation to the elderly population in the next few decades as people are now living longer lives. There will be a great urgency for Geriatricians 1.
  • As more then 25% of the elderly have at least 5 chronic illnesses simultaneously, a Geriatrician gains expertise in treating these chronic illnesses and are also able to coordinate services with other specialties 2.

Main disadvantages:

  • The reality that a patient may not always get better because of their age
  • The geriatrician has to be emotionally ready to experience the mental decline and death of a patient
  • There are many treatments or surgeries that an elderly persons body would not be able to handle. The geriatrician has to come to realize that although there is treatment for the condition, it may not always be available for the patient to use due to the high risk of the treatment [2].

Sources:

  1. Exploring Health Careers- Geriatrics
  2. The Gerontilogical Society of America

NEUROLOGY

A neurologist is a physician who diagnoses and treats “central, peripheral, and autonomic nervous system disorders using a combination of clinical evaluation and electrophysiologic testing such as electroencephalography (EEG), electromyography (EMG), and nerve conduction studies (NCS)…”1 For such disorders, neurologists are often primary care physicians, but can “render all levels of care commensurate with [their] training.”2

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An ideal neurologist is someone who…

      • …has a fascination with and detailed knowledge of the central and peripheral nervous systems.
      • …enjoys working with latest brain imaging technology.
      • …enjoys working with people and analyzing the neurological basis for human behavior.

Training:

Neurologists require four years of residency training.1 At least one additional years of training is required for specialization in one of the following subspecialties: Clinical Neurophysiology, Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Neurodevelopmental Disabilities, Neuromuscular Medicine, Pain Medicine, Sleep Medicine, Vascular Neurology.1

Common Work Schedule:

According to a 2003 survey, on average, neurologists work about 55 hours each week.3­

Average compensation:

$213,000 to $301,3271

Main Advantages:

      • Exposure to a wide variety of fascinating clinical conditions4
      • Many research opportunities; often involves connections to academic institutions4
      • Multidisciplinary teamwork4

Main Disadvantages:

      • Deals with a large number of untreatable or poorly understood diseases4
      • Research is often a prerequisite to entry into training4

Sources:

      1. AAMC Medical Specialties
      2. ACGME
      3. JAMA
      4. Career in Neurology

PATHOLOGY

A pathologist examines the causes and nature of disease through “the laboratory application of the biological, chemical, and physical sciences.”1 Pathologists perform tests on tissue specimens, cells, and body fluids in order to diagnose, exclude, or monitor disease.1

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An ideal pathologist is someone who…

      • …enjoys applying laboratory science to human health problems2
      • …is not averse to performing autopsies (in the case of anatomic pathology)2
      • …enjoys diagnosing and treating a wide variety of diseases2

Training:

Pathologists require four years of residency training.1 Pathologists may specialize in the following subspecialties: blood banking/transfusion medicine, chemical pathology, cytopathology, dermatopathology, forensic pathology, hematology, medical microbiology, molecular genetic pathology, neuropathology, and pediatric pathology.1

Common Work Schedule:

According to a 2003 survey, pathologists work an average of 45.5 hours each week.3­

Average compensation:

$193,477 to $350,2864

Main Advantages:

      • The investigative nature of pathology makes it an exciting specialty
      • Pathology allows for a relatively controllable lifestyle compared to most medical specialties

Main Disadvantages:

      • Depending on the subspecialty, pathology may involve extensive work with human remains; it requires a very strong stomach

Sources:

      1. AAMC Medical Specialties
      2. Washington University in St. Louis Residency Information
      3. Medfriends
      4. Merritt Hawkins, Modern Healthcare Physician Compensation Review

PEDIATRICS

A pediatrician’s works to maintain the “physical, emotional, and social health of children from birth to young adulthood.”1 Pediatricians treat a broad range of illnesses and injuries to promote healthy development in children.1

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An ideal pediatrician is someone who…

      • …thoroughly enjoys treating children and adolescents.
      • …communicates effectively with the parents of patients.
      • …enjoys treating the same patients over a long period of time.

Training:

Pediatricians require a minimum of three years of residency training.2 They may complete a subspecialty in adolescent medicine, neonatal/perinatal medicine, pediatric cardiology, pediatric critical care medicine, pediatric endocrinology, pediatric gastroenterology, pediatric hematology/oncology, pediatric infectious diseases, pediatric nephrology, pediatric pulmonology, or pediatric rheumatology.2

Common Work Schedule:

According to a 2003 survey, pediatricians work an average of 54 hours each week.3­

Average compensation:

$160,111 to $228,7501

Main Advantages:

      • Having the opportunity to work with children
      • Leading a relatively controllable lifestyle that is less stressful than many other specialties

Main Disadvantages:

      • Lower compensation compared to most specialties
      • Concerned parents may sometimes be difficult to work with

Sources:

      1. AAMC Medical Specialties
      2. Washington University in St. Louis Residency Information
      3. Medfriends

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Vy Tran

Mailing Address:

Premedical Career Pathway Research 
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Phone/Fax: 626-487-6797

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