What is Internal Medicine?

You may be wondering just what is internal medicine, how internal medicine doctors are different from family doctors, or whether there is a difference between an internist and an intern?


While there is more to internal medicine than that, here is something to help you understand those and other questions about what internal medicine is, and how an internal medicine physician can help you achieve.

Internal and Family Medicine: What’s the Difference?

To start, internal medicine is the practice of applying scientific expertise to the diagnosis, treatment, and care of adult patients. It covers everything from general health issues to complex treatments of major illness, and is performed by an “Internist,” which is a physician who specializes in internal medicine.

But while internists spend at least 3 of their 7 years of required schooling learning how to prevent, diagnose, and treat adult diseases, family medicine doctors are trained to attend to a wider spectrum of conditions which affect the entire family, from birth to death. This includes children and teens, which make up around 10%-15% of the patients they see. While the majority of a family doctor’s patients are adults, there are many differences between their training, and that of an internist.

Internist Training

To become an internist, a doctor’s medical training must cover certain areas of medicine focused on adults.

For a general internists–or one who handles a broad spectrum of adult conditions–these areas include:

  • Psychiatry – “a branch of medicine that deals with mental, emotional, or behavioral disorders”
  • Dermatology – “a branch of medicine dealing with the skin, its structure, functions, and diseases”
  • Ophthalmology – “a branch of medical science dealing with the structure, functions, and diseases of the eye”
  • Office gynecology – “a branch of medicine that deals with the diseases and routine physical care of the reproductive system of women”
  • Otorhinolaryngology – “a medical specialty concerned especially with the ear, nose, and throat and related parts of the head and neck”
  • Non-operative orthopedics – “a branch of medicine concerned with the correction or prevention of deformities, disorders, or injuries of the skeleton and associated structures”
  • Palliative medicine – “ease (symptoms) without curing the underlying disease”
  • Sleep medicine – Medicine to aid sleep patterns
  • Geriatrics – “a branch of medicine that deals with the problems and diseases of old age and the medical care and treatment of aging people”
  • Rehabilitation medicine – “restoration especially by medicine and therapeutic means to an improved condition of physical function”

There are also internal medicine subspecialties which internists may study, and many may choose to focus on as a specialist. These specialty areas may include such areas as endocrinology, rheumatology, and infectious diseases.

While both internists and family medicine doctors need 3-years of training to become general practitioners, internists who subspecialize in an area typically require an additional 1-3 years of training.

What Diseases do Internists Treat? 

While some internists may choose to become “med-peds,” or doctors with dual training in both family medicine and internal medicine, general internists focus only on diseases which affect adults. These include the broad spectrum of chronic diseases and conditions both rare and common since they are trained as experts in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of all complex adult health issues.

Internists, through their training, become experts at diagnosing critical and complicated conditions such as when multiple diseases occur simultaneously. These include diseases stemming from such conditions as heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and chronic lung disease. Internal medicine doctors usually develop ongoing relationships with their patients, which makes them perfectly suited to handle any health concerns throughout their lives, including annual checkups and routine treatments, which can also be performed by them.

Is an Internist the Same as an Intern?

Though the names sound similar, an intern is a doctor, who graduated medical school but is in their first year of residency training. An intern cannot practice independently until they complete their residency. An internist is a trained doctor of internal medicine and has graduated from a residency program and can practice medicine independently. Though an internist needs to go through an internship to complete their training in becoming a medical doctor, the similarities end there.

What does FACP After My Doctor’s Name Mean?

FACP stands for Fellow of the American College of Physicians (ACP), which is the largest society of internists in the world. Members are a distinguished group of doctors dedicated to their continued education in teaching, medical practice, or research. It’s an honor given in recognition of the recipient’s contributions and service in the field of medicine, as well as a mark of distinction for them. It recognizes the internist’s ongoing service and contributions to the practice of medicine and shows that your doctor made extraordinary effort in becoming a better doctor.

This includes activities such as:

  • Teaching medical students
  • Hospital appointments
  • Continued medical education
  • Public service
  • Publishing scientific research articles
  • Advanced training

Ultimately when you see FACP next to your internist’s name, it means your doctor’s main concern is in delivering the highest-quality health possible.

Intermountain Health Services

At Intermountain Health, we bring you only the best healthcare there is. This includes our award-winning staff of internists, specialists, and family doctors. This ensures that you and your loved ones receive only the most professional, highest-quality providers of services that encompass:

By placing your healthcare in the hands of our medical professionals, you can be assured that you are not only in the best of hands, but that your needs ALWAYS come first.

Your Next Steps

To access our providers for the best in personalized, coordinated care, simply go to our Find Your Provider page, enter your information, and find a family doctor, specialist, or internist who best suits your needs. It allows you to look through our extended affiliate network of highly trained, qualified, and award-winning medical staff and qualify them by specialty, gender, language, and location.

And with clinics in Las Vegas, Henderson, Mesquite, Pahrump, and Boulder City, you can be sure there is a location near you!


Part of being well is being heard.