Of all the currently recognized medical specialties, there are few that provide as versatile and diverse of a career as that of a family doctor. Family medicine is a recognized medical specialty that focuses on providing comprehensive health care to people of all ages, regardless of the condition the person has or the part of the body where the problem is located. This medical specialty aims to provide treatment to patients in the broader context of the family and the community, and focuses on providing treatment, preventative medicine, and continuing care.
A family doctor must complete the same requirements as practitioners in other medical specialties. They must graduate from college, take the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT), and graduate from medical school. Once they complete that last step, aspiring general practitioners must complete a three-year residency at an accredited program in the United States. The residency will include rotations in geriatrics, pediatrics, obstetrics-gynecology, internal medicine, and psychiatry, and will allow those who want to specialize in general practice to gain knowledge in a wide variety of important fields.
Aspiring general practitioners will then be eligible to sit for a board certification examination. Once a family doctor is officially board certified, he or she will have to maintain certification by completing a series of continuing medical education requirements. This will involve reviews of medical knowledge, patient care oversight, practice-based learning, and retaking the board certification examination once every 7 to 10 years.
These doctors have not always had the opportunity to become board-certified, however. This medical field was not recognized as an official medical specialty until 1969. Prior to 1969, a general practitioner only had to graduate medical school and complete a one-year internship. However, some practitioners within the specialty realized that a short internship was not adequate to convey the knowledge and training required, which led to the creation of a board certification exam and officially transformed this field of medicine into a recognized medical specialty.
Most general practitioners work in solo or small group practices, which can be located anywhere from a small town to a large city. In small towns, there may only be one family doctor serving as the sole physician for the entire town. This provides the practitioner with an excellent opportunity to truly get to know his or her patients. The practitioner may treat multiple generations of the same family if he or she works in the small community for long enough.
Although a general practitioner typically works directly with patients, the profession is diverse enough that other career paths are possible. Some work in the education field, while others work in urgent care, emergency medicine, or public health, and others work as consultants to various medical institutions or insurance companies.