Specialty Definitions

An alphabetized list of Physician Specialties. 

Addiction Medicine: The branch of medicine that concentrates on helping people overcome repetitive behaviors that can range from drug and alcohol dependency to tobacco use and eating disorders.

Adolescent Medicine: The specialty of physicians with the experience and training to help young people meet the medical, psychological and social challenges that occur during the transition from childhood to adulthood.

AIDS/HIV Care: A multidisciplinary effort that’s often led by primary-care physicians working in cooperation with case managers, registered nurses, nutritionists, physical and occupational therapists, and others. The goal: Improve the health and comfort of AIDS/ HIV patients by addressing their physical and emotional needs.

Anesthesiology: The science of applying anesthetics and managing pain during medical procedures. Anesthesiologists are physicians who are primarily concerned with administering the various drugs that keep patients from feeling pain during surgery and other procedures and childbirth.

Asthma, Allergy & Immunology: The study and treatment of the body's reaction to foreign substances. The ailments treated by immunologists include hay fever, asthma, hives and other abnormal responses to allergens that range from dust and food to animals and chemicals.

Bariatric Medicine: Weight-loss (bariatric) medicine focuses on physician-supervised diet and nutrition, exercise, lifestyle changes, and, when appropriate, the prescription of appetite suppressants and other appropriate medications, to assist the patient in returning to a healthy weight.

Bariatric Surgery: Weight-loss (bariatric) surgery is performed to alter the patient's digestive system to limit the amount of food that can be eaten and digested. This surgery can lower the medical risks associated with obesity.

Breast-Cancer Surgery: Surgeons specializing in cancer of the breast are skilled in a number of surgical options, ranging from mastectomies to sentinel-node biopsies. They also work with a multidisciplinary team that may include oncologists, radiologists, pharmacists and others to determine the best strategy for follow-up treatment and care.

Cardiac Surgery: Highly trained and certified cardiac surgeons correct and repair multiple heart conditions, including coronary artery disease and congenital heart disease. Many cardiac surgeons specialize in minimally invasive surgeries that are performed through a small incision and require less recovery time and improve patient safety and comfort.

Cardiology: The study of the heart. Cardiologists often specialize in a particular area, but collectively they diagnose and treat patients suffering from diseases of the heart, lungs and blood vessels; perform heart surgeries; and educate patients on preventing heart problems and living a heart-healthy lifestyle.

Colorectal Surgery: The treatment of diseases of the intestinal tract, anus and rectum through surgery. Colorectal surgeons not only operate to remove malignancies, they strongly encourage the testing that can lead to early detection. If caught early, colorectal cancer can be cured. Colorectal surgeons also deal with hemorrhoids, polyps and other ailments.

Critical Care: Emergency departments and special-care units offer the services of highly trained physicians and nurses to provide minute-to-minute care to critically ill patients and patients whose lives are in danger.

Dermatology: The medical field devoted to the study and treatment of disorders and diseases of the skin. Dermatologists help patients deal with a range of concerns, from warts to acne to skin cancers.

Diabetes: Specialists in this field of medicine provide education in diabetes management, along with other tools to help patients take control of their diabetes and prevent it from interfering with active, healthy lives.

Endocrinology: This branch of medicine focuses on the body’s “ductless” glands and how they function. Endocrinologists are concerned with the thyroid, pituitary and adrenal glands, among others, as well as nutritional disorders, sexual disorders, and problems such as diabetes and hypertension.

Epilepsy: Neurologists specializing in this field of care help patients living with epilepsy and other seizure disorders live full and active lives. Treatment can involve surgery or medications, or can be a combination of both.

Family Medicine: Family medicine physicians provide comprehensive medical care with an emphasis on caring for all members of the family. Family medicine builds upon a core of knowledge derived from other disciplines, primarily pediatrics, internal medicine, OB/GYN, geriatrics, surgery and psychiatry. The family medicine physician plays the role of personal physician.

Family Medicine With Obstetrics: These are family medicine physicians (see directly above) who also deliver babies.

Gastroenterology: The study and treatment of conditions of the digestive system. A gastroenterologist diagnoses and treats disorders of the stomach, intestines, bowels and other structures, such as the liver, gall bladder, pancreas and esophagus. Gastroenterologists focus on maladies that include ulcers, jaundice, hepatitis and cancer.

General Surgery: The study and practice of all types of surgical operations. General surgeons perform a number of procedures aimed at treating a range of diseases and conditions, including cancer, appendicitis, tonsillitis and hernia.

Geriatrics: The study of aging and the treatment of problems in the elderly. Geriatric-care specialists consider a range of illnesses and conditions as they specifically affect the aged. These physicians frequently address the psychological and social aspects of aging, in addition to the physical aspects.

Gynecologic Oncology: The study, diagnosis and treatment of tumors and cancers in the female reproductive system, including breast care.

Gynecology: The study and care of the female reproductive system, including breast care. Gynecologists provide routine care for women and treat a full spectrum of illnesses that particularly affect women.

Hand Surgery: Surgeons in this specialty are trained to diagnose and repair damaged and injured hands. The conditions they treat range from carpal tunnel syndrome to sport-related injuries and the reattachment of severed fingers.

Head and Neck Surgery: Surgeons who are trained in head and neck surgery generally have subspecialties in areas that include otology (diseases of the ear), rhinology (diseases of the nose) and/or laryngology (diseases of the throat and larynx).

Headache: Neurologists who specialize in treating victims of chronic headaches and migraines and offer their patients multiple treatment options, including the latest medications, physical therapy, biofeedback and psychological counseling.

Hematology: The medical specialty concerned with blood and the blood system. A hematologist treats blood diseases such as cancer, lymphoma, serious anemia and sickle cell disease.

Infectious Diseases: Diseases, often communicable, that are caused by the growth of various microorganisms, including bacteria and viruses. A specialist in infectious diseases diagnoses and treats patients affected by illnesses ranging from pneumonia to salmonella to AIDS.

Infertility Medicine: A field of treatment and research aimed at helping individuals and couples who want children but are having fertility problems or are otherwise having trouble conceiving. Procedures might include artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization, where an egg is removed from a woman’s ovary, fertilized in a lab and then placed in the woman’s uterus.

Internal Medicine: A broad-based medical field in which physicians rely on their knowledge of major organs to diagnose and treat patients. Internists treat a variety of afflictions, from colds and heart problems to infectious diseases. Internists often serve as a patient's primary doctor, coordinating all that person's health care.

Interventional Cardiology: The area of cardiology that uses catheterization to diagnose and treat heart diseases. Catheterization is a non-surgical procedure using thin, flexible tubes (catheters) to access the heart's blood vessels. This procedure allows the interventional cardiologist to make a diagnosis or repair damaged vessels or other areas of the heart, often avoiding the need for surgery.

Interventional Radiology: The area of radiology that uses image guidance to perform minimally invasive procedures. The procedure is usually done with small needles or catheters (thin, flexible tubes). Interventional radiology is used to diagnose conditions, such as an angiogram (an image of blood vessels) or as a method of treatment, such as an angioplasty (procedure to open narrow or clogged blood vessels).

Midwife (CNM): A certified nurse midwife (CNM) is a registered nurse who has completed an advanced course of study and is certified by the American College of Nurse-Midwives. A midwife is trained to care for women during pregnancy, labor and the postnatal period; conduct normal deliveries; and to care for newborn babies under normal circumstances.

Movement Disorders: Neurologists specializing in movement disorders are trained to diagnose and treat conditions of the nerves and muscles that may prevent such simple functions as walking across a room with ease or drinking a glass of water without spilling. These disorders include tremors, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s chorea and Tourrette’s syndrome.

Nephrology: The study and care of the kidneys and urinary system. Nephrologists treat kidney disorders, diabetes, renal failure and other illnesses. Treatments can range from dialysis to kidney transplants.

Neurology: The study and treatment of diseases of the nervous system. A neurologist assists patients who have stroke complications, head injuries, epilepsy, Alzheimer's disease, and other afflictions of the brain and spinal cord.

Neuro-ophthalmology: Specialists in this branch of medicine offer the experience and the resources to help people with brain-related visual problems – as well as eye-movement problems – find hope for improved eyesight. Therapies range from botulinum toxin injection to nonsurgical treatment for facial spasms and excessive blinking.

Neurotology: The area of otolaryngology (ear, nose and throat) focusing on the relationship between the nervous system and hearing. Specialists in this field diagnose, treat and rehabilitate disorders that affect the inner ear and its related brainstem structures.

Neurosurgery: Neurosurgeons specialize in surgically treating diseases and disorders of the nervous system. The nervous system consists of the brain and the spinal cord (central nervous system), along with the nerves of the brain and spinal cord (peripheral nervous system).

Nuclear Medicine: A specialty that uses radioactive substances and sophisticated diagnostic equipment to determine a variety of conditions and diseases. The equipment used in nuclear medicine – including MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and PET (positron emission tomography) – reveals the inner workings of the body and its organs.

Obstetrics and Gynecology (OB/GYN): OB/GYN is the field of medicine devoted to conditions specific to women. Obstetrics is the care of a woman during pregnancy and during and after childbirth. Gynecology is the study and care of the female reproductive system. An OB/GYN specialist combines these two disciplines to provide comprehensive care for women.

Occupational Medicine: The area of medicine dealing with prevention and treatment of injuries, disorders and diseases that occur in the work environment.

Oncology – Medical: Medical oncologists are specialists in using various medications to treat and manage patients with cancer. This includes the use of chemotherapy to kill cancer cells, painkillers to manage cancer pain, and drugs that will eliminate or reduce the side effects of cancer treatment.

Oncology – Radiation: Radiation oncology is the field of medicine that uses therapeutic applications of radiation to manage cancer and other diseases. Radiation oncologists determine the type of radiation that will be used, as well as the amount or dose, and the number and length of treatments.

Ophthalmology: The medical specialty devoted to care of the eye and the treatment of diseases that affect eyes and vision. An ophthalmologist diagnoses and treats abnormalities of the eye and performs surgery on the eye. Ophthalmologists are medical doctors and are different from optometrists (who test vision and prescribe corrective lenses) and opticians (who make or sell corrective eyewear).

Oral/Maxillofacial Surgery: The branch of dentistry that focuses on the diagnosis and surgical treatment of diseases, injuries and deformities of the teeth, mouth and jaw. An oral surgeon removes wisdom teeth, repairs broken jaws and treats a range of other conditions. Specialists in this field are also called dental surgeons.

Orthopedic Surgery: The medical field concerned with the prevention and correction of muscular or skeletal injuries and abnormalities. Orthopedic surgeons treat complex conditions and injuries as well as broken bones, severe muscle sprains, and knee and other joint injuries. They also perform joint replacements.

Otolaryngology (ENT): A division of medical science that focuses on the ears, nose and throat (ENT). Otolaryngologists diagnose and treat disorders from the shoulders up, with the exception of the eyes and brain. Conditions they may deal with include hearing loss, tonsillitis and nasal obstructions.

Otology: An otologist is a specialist in the anatomy and structure of the ear, and how to treat diseases of the ear.

Pain Management: Physicians and other pain experts choose from an extensive series of diagnostic tests to precisely identify the source of a patient’s pain. Treatment and management possibilities are wide ranging and include physical therapy, behavioral therapy, biofeedback and pain-relieving devices that are implanted under the skin.

Pathology: The study of the nature and causes of disease. A pathologist examines body tissues to diagnose of diseases, and to determine the cause of various conditions, including death. There are several subspecialties in pathology, including chemical pathology, forensic pathology, hematology pathology and neuropathology.

Pathology-Anatomic: Pathology is the study of the nature and causes of disease. Pathology-anatomy (also called anatomic pathology) specifically studies changes to the function, structure and features of organs and tissue (anatomical changes) caused by disease.

Pathology-Clinical: Pathology is the study of the nature and causes of disease. Pathology-clinical (also called clinical pathology) is the application of pathology to help solve clinical problems. This includes analyzing specimens, such as tissue biopsy or blood, in the lab.

Pediatrics: The field of medicine dedicated to the care of infants, children and teenagers. Doctors in this field are called pediatricians. They are often the first doctors children see, and they concentrate on preventing illness and treating children for a variety of conditions, including sore throats, earaches and infectious diseases.

Pediatric Specialties: Usually, a family physician or pediatrician will address the health problems of children. However, when there is a serious illness or injury, a child may need care from a pediatric specialist – a physician with advanced training and expertise in a particular area of medicine. Board-certified pediatric specialists provide medical services in areas ranging from cardiology and infectious diseases to neurology, orthopedics and surgery.

Perinatology: A branch of medicine dealing with medical and biological issues that affect the birth of a child. Perinatology combines obstetrics, gynecology and neonatology, and includes treatment of a fetus or a newborn and the mother.

Physiatry: A physiatrist is a physician who specializes in physical medicine, which is the curing of injuries and disease by natural methods. Measures that are used include physical therapy, massage, exercise, light and heat.

Plastic/Reconstructive Surgery: The repair, restoration or reconstruction of different parts of the body. Plastic and reconstructive surgeons not only perform elective cosmetic surgery to improve appearance, they also repair and reconstruct the facial features and bodies of patients with conditions caused by burns, injuries, diseases and congenital deformities.

Podiatry: The study, prevention and treatment of problems of the foot. A podiatrist may prescribe corrective devices and medication, or recommend physical therapy. Podiatrists attend colleges of podiatric medicine and graduates are doctors of podiatric medicine (DPM). Podiatrits with advanced training also do various types of foot surgery.

Psychiatry: The diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental, emotional and behavioral disorders. Psychiatrists are physicians who prescribe appropriate medication and do therapy to treat of a variety of conditions, from depression to schizophrenia.

Psychology: Psychologists deal with mental processes – both normal and abnormal – and their effects upon human behavior. Psychologists typically have a doctorate degree, but are not medical doctors and do not prescribe medications.

Pulmonary Medicine: The field of medicine devoted to the study and treatment of diseases of the respiratory system. Pulmonary specialists – called pulmonologists – treat pneumonia, bronchitis, emphysema, asthma, cancer and other disorders of the lungs and respiratory system.

Radiology: The use of radioactive equipment, including X-ray machines, to diagnose and treat diseases and injuries. Specialists in this field are called radiologists.

Rheumatology: The study and care of the joints and the muscular and skeletal systems. Rheumatologists treat a range of conditions, from athletic injuries to arthritis, lupus and rheumatic fever.

Sleep Medicine: The field of medicine devoted to the study and treatment of disruptions in sleeping patterns. Specialists in this field work with patients to overcome such conditions as insomnia, narcolepsy and sleep apnea.

Sports Medicine: The field of medicine devoted to athletic injuries. Doctors specializing in sports medicine help patients prevent and recover from a range of injuries – from sprained knees and back strains to broken bones and torn ligaments – suffered while engaging in sports activities. Many sports medicine doctors also help design athletic training equipment and training methods.

Thoracic Surgery: The study and practice of surgery on the chest cavity and rib cage, including the heart, lungs and esophagus. Thoracic surgeons treat patients with lung cancer, coronary diseases, aneurysms and heart diseases.

Transplant: Surgeons specializing in organ transplants take a multidisciplinary approach to surgery and follow-up care that addresses all of patient’s physical and psychological needs. Patients receive an extensive orientation prior to transplantation, which can involved the kidneys, liver, heart and other organs.

Urology: The study and treatment of the male and female urinary tracts and the male genital tract. Urologists diagnose and treat disorders of the urinary tract, prostate and bladder.

Vascular Surgery: The focus is on surgical solutions to diseases of the body’s blood vessels, including the heart and lymph systems. Vascular surgeons treat patients for lymphatic diseases, strokes, aneurysms, varicose veins and other conditions.