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"What is the difference between a family physician and an internist?"

ZocdocAnswersWhat is the difference between a family physician and an internist?


I am 33 years old. Overall, I am fairly healthy and usually only require a couple of checkups a year. I am looking for a new primary physician. I have high cholesterol and want to choose type of doctor that would best service this issue. I have noticed that some doctors are family doctors and some are listed as internists. I would like to know if one of these is better suited for this issue.


A family physician is a doctor who has completed a residency in family medicine, whereas an internist has completed a residency in internal medicine. Family medicine and internal medicine have a lot of similarities but also a lot that separates them into two different fields of medicine. Family medicine doctors see all ages of babies, from birth to death. Some family medicine doctors choose to deliver babies as well. Internal medicine doctors only see adults, usually age 18 and older. Family medicine training tends to focus more on outpatient (for example, clinic) services, whereas internal medicine training tends to put a lot more emphasis on inpatient (hospital) services. Most family medicine doctors go right into practice after residency but there are a few fellowship opportunities where they can specialize in adolescents, geriatrics, or sports medicine for example. Many doctors who graduate from internal medicine residency choose to go into a sub-specialty such as cardiology, oncology, nephrology, or pulmonology. So, to answer your question, for your situation of relatively good health, either type of doctor (both also known as primary care doctors) would be more than capable of meeting your needs. It is more important to make sure that they are board certified and that you feel comfortable with them to develop a solid therapeutic relationship.

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