What’s the Difference Between an Internist and a Family Physician?

The short answer from a primary care specialist
A healthcare provider checks on a patient's abdomen while the patient lays don on an examination table.

Q: I’m looking for a primary care doctor. What’s the difference between an internist and a family physician?

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A: Internists are specialty-trained to treat adults from 18 years old through the geriatric years. They have intensive and comprehensive training in all aspects of adult medical care. Internists specialize in primary care screening and in treating common adult problems, such as diabetes and hypertension, as well as in treating patients with a complex combination of conditions.

Family medicine doctors are specialty-trained to care for people across the lifespan, from birth through the geriatric years. Family medicine doctors have formal training in pediatrics, adult medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, mental health and more. This broad training equips them to deal with a wide range of health problems for the entire family, with a focus on wellness, disease prevention and chronic disease management.

— Family medicine physician Garrett Kirkpatrick, DO

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