Family medicine as a specialty integrates a broad-spectrum approach to primary care with the consideration of health-impacting social determinants and community factors, while also serving as an advocate for the patient in an increasingly complex health care system. Unlike other narrowly focused specialties, family medicine includes the biological, clinical, and behavioral sciences, encompassing all ages, sexes, each organ system, and every disease entity.
The focus of a family physician is the whole person. They shepherd patients of all ages through the complex health system, and coordinate the care of their health. By building relationships with their patients over time, family physicians develop a comprehensive understanding of their patients’ health, and offer insightful, personal guidance and treatment.
In the increasingly fragmented world of health care, one thing remains constant: family physicians are dedicated to treating the whole person. Family medicine’s cornerstone is an ongoing, personal patient-physician relationship focusing on integrated care. Unlike other specialties that are limited to a particular organ or disease, family medicine integrates care for patients of all genders and every age, and advocates for the patient in a complex health care system. Due to this broad training, family physicians are able to deliver a range of acute, chronic, and preventive medical care services while providing patients with a patient-centered medical home.
Because of their extensive training, family physicians are the only specialists qualified to treat most ailments and provide comprehensive health care for people of all ages– from newborns to seniors. Like other medical specialists, family physicians complete a three-year residency program after graduating from medical school.
As part of their residency, they participate in integrated inpatient and outpatient learning and receive training in six major medical areas: pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, internal medicine, psychiatry and neurology, surgery, and community medicine. They also receive instruction in many other areas including geriatrics, emergency medicine, ophthalmology, radiology, orthopedics, otolaryngology, and urology.
In addition to diagnosing and treating illness, they also provide preventive care, including routine checkups, health-risk assessments, immunization and screening tests, and personalized counseling on maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Family physicians also manage chronic illness, often coordinating care provided by other subspecialists. From heart disease, stroke and hypertension, to diabetes, cancer, and asthma, family physicians provide ongoing, personal care for the nation’s most serious health problems.