What Is An Internist?

Internists (internal medicine physicians) are personal physicians who provide long-term, comprehensive care in a doctor’s office and in the hospital, managing both common and complex illnesses in adolescents, adults and the elderly.

Specifically, they are specialists who apply scientific knowledge and clinical expertise to the diagnosis, treatment and compassionate care of patients, involving the entire spectrum of health and wellness to serious illnesses.

Also referred to as doctors of internal medicine, Internists are not to be mistaken for interns — doctors in their first year of residency training.


Margaret Andersen, MD

An Internist’s primary responsibilities include:

  • health maintenance
  • disease screening
  • the diagnosis and care of acute and chronic medical conditions
  • management of patients with multiple, complex medical problems
  • serving as consultants to other disciplines such as surgery, obstetrics and family medicine

Undergoing at least 7 years of medical school and postgraduate training, Internists are sometimes referred to as the “doctor’s doctor,” because they are often called upon to act as consultants to other physicians to help solve puzzling diagnostic problems.

Caring for the whole patient

Internists are trained to deal with whatever health problem a patient may have, no matter how rare or complex, including severe chronic illnesses or situations where several different illnesses may be present at the same time.

Highly skilled in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, infections and diseases affecting the heart, blood, kidneys, joints, and digestive, respiratory and vascular systems, Internists are also trained in primary care internal medicine. This incorporates an understanding of disease prevention, wellness, substance abuse, mental health and effective treatment of common problems of the eyes, ears, skin, nervous system and reproductive organs.

Caring for you for life

In today’s complex medical environment, Internists enjoy caring for their patients for life: in the office or clinic, during hospitalization and intensive care, from the nursery to nursing homes. When other medical specialists are involved in a patient’s care, such as surgeons or obstetricians, Internists coordinate the overall care and treatment plan and manage difficult medical problems associated with that care.

Internal medicine subspecialties

Internists can choose to focus on general internal medicine or they may undertake additional training to subspecialize in one of 19 areas of internal medicine. Cardiologists, for example, are doctors of internal medicine who subspecialize in diseases of the heart.

To subspecialize in a particular medical area, an Internist must undergo very advanced, highly specific training which is both broad and deep. Subspecialty training (often called a fellowship) usually requires an additional 1-3 years of instruction beyond the standard 3-year general internal medicine residency.

Internal medicine subspecialties include:

  • Adolescent Medicine
  • Advanced Heart Failure and Transplant Cardiology
  • Cardiovascular Disease
  • Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiology
  • Critical Care Medicine
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Gastroenterology
  • Geriatric Medicine
  • Hematology
  • Hematology and Oncology
  • Infectious Disease
  • Interventional Cardiology
  • Oncology
  • Nephrology
  • Pulmonary Disease and Critical Care Medicine
  • Pediatric Endocrinology
  • Rheumatology
  • Sports Medicine
  • Transplant Hepatology

What does FACP mean?

When the letters FACP appear after a physician’s name, this means that he or she is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians (ACP), the world’s largest society of internists. Fellows of ACP are a distinguished group of doctors dedicated to continuing education in medical practice, teaching or research. ACP fellowship is an honorary designation given to recognize ongoing individual service and contributions to the practice of medicine.

A highly valued mark of distinction, fellowship in ACP communicates that your internist has made special efforts to be a better doctor through teaching, hospital appointments, public service, continuing medical education, publishing scientific articles and/or advanced training. Ultimately, the FACP designation means that your physician truly cares about delivering the highest-quality healthcare to you and all of his/her patients.

Board Certification

Board Certification is optional but demonstrates that the Internist is up to date on all aspects of general internal medicine. The American Board of Internal Medicine issues this certification to physicians who display their competence through a rigorous examination. They must also maintain this certification by participating in continuous leaning and educational activities.

For more information, advice and tips, come in and see us

If you’re concerned about any aspect of your healthcare, please call (914) 232-1919 to make an appointment with one of our Westchester Health Internal Medicine specialists to come in and talk about it. Whenever, wherever you need us, we’re here for you.

By Margaret Andersen, MD, an internist with Women Caring For Women, an internal medicine practice focused solely on women, part of Westchester Health, member of Westchester Health Physician Partners

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