Dr. Helena Taylor Clinic

What is an Internal Medicine Physician or Internist?

Internal medicine

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Internal medicine physicians are experts in complexity. They see every connection in the adult human body. Internal medicine physicians serve, and lead, in many diverse roles and settings. They are critical thinkers who thrive in uncertainty and excel in the most challenging and dynamic environments, and care for patients throughout their health care journey. Their expertise makes them vital to both patients and medical professionals.

What is an internal medicine physician or internist?

Internal medicine physicians are specialists who apply scientific knowledge and clinical expertise to the diagnosis, treatment, and compassionate care of adults across the spectrum from health to complex illness.

They are especially well trained in the diagnosis of puzzling medical problems, in the ongoing care of chronic illnesses, and in caring for patients with more than one disease. Internal medicine physicians also specialize in health promotion and disease prevention.

The internist is interested in internal organs, his field of expertise covers both the diagnosis and treatment of rare diseases, but also management and monitoring of multiple pathologies that may require hospitalization.

  • Internists play the role of “Orchestra chief conductor” in collaboration with various specialists (neurologists, cardiologists, nephrologists, etc.) they take care of patients presenting symptoms which do not belong to a specific disease, or which overlap several specialties.
  • In the case of inflammatory diseases for example, or even complex or rare pathologies, specialists in internal medicine can establish a diagnosis, then take charge of the entire pathology, ensure follow up and offer appropriate therapy.
  • Finally, internists can re direct a patient with multiple symptoms towards specialized care adapted to their situation.

Internal medicine physicians routinely see patients with chronic conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and pulmonary disease.

In addition internal medicine unit are specialized in the diagnosis and management of polypathologies and complex medical pathologies:

  • Systemic lupus erythematosus
  • Gougerot Sjrogren syndrome
  • Polymyositis
  • Systemic vasculitis
  • Horton’s disease
  • Behcet’s disease
  • Pseudo rhizomelic arthritis
  • Autoimmune cytopenias
  • Prolonged fevers
  • Graves’ disease
  • Hashimoto disease
  • Metabolic syndrome

The term internal medicine comes from the German term innere medizin, popularized in Germany in the late 19th  century to describe physicians who combined the science of the laboratory with the care of patients. Many early 20th century American doctors studied medicine in Germany and brought this medical field to the United States. Thus, the name “internal medicine” was adopted.

How are internists different from general practitioners?

Internists and general practitioners are similar and will often see many of the same patients. They are both primary care doctors, but there are key differences.

While internists work with adults, general practitioners provide care for people of all ages, including children and adolescents.

During their education, a general practitioner will train in both internal medicine and other types of medicine, including pediatric care for children.

What to expect at the internist

What will happen when you go to an internist will depend upon your reason for going. Still, you can probably expect these steps in care.

The doctor will check your vital signs. You’ll go over your medical history and your list of medications. Your internist will ask about your symptoms and your general state of health.  The doctor will usually give you a physical exam. The doctor wants to get a complete picture of your health.

As part of your physical exam, your an internist typically will:

  • Look at your general appearance, including your posture and how you move
  • Listen to your heart, checking for a heart murmurirregular heartbeat, or otherunusual sounds
  • Listen to your breathing, checking for crackles, wheezing, or shortness of breath
  • Look at your eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and throat
  • Check your skin and nails.

For wellness checks, the doctor may order screening tests, such as a lipidpanel or bone density test. For specific problems, the doctor will order the appropriate test, whether it be a simple urinalysis or something more complex, like an imaging test. You may be asked to come back for a follow-up visit, or your doctor may advise that you see a different specialist.

If you see other specialists, your internist may consult with your other doctors, coordinate your care, and check for medication interactions. The best internists are proactive and may counsel you on lifestyle changes and steps that you can take to avoid problems in the future. They’ll also  check for mental health problems such as depression.


Internal medicine physicians see the big picture. Their deep training and knowledge of the entire human body and its organ systems give them a unique perspective of how everything works in unison. They analyse, consider, and make connections from multiple data sets, and identify solutions for optimal health outcomes.

Internal medicine physicians are known as the “doctor’s doctor” because they are often called upon by other medical professionals for their ability to connect the dots and help solve problems. Their expertise makes them vital to both patients and medical professionals.

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