Frequently Asked Questions

What is general internal medicine?

According to the American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine, which is the principal professional society of practitioners of internal medicine in the USA, "Doctors of internal medicine, often called 'internists' or 'general internists,' focus on adult medicine. They care for their patients for life-from the teen years through old age. Internists have had study and training that focuses on the prevention and treatment of adult diseases. At least three of their seven or more years of medical school and postgraduate training are dedicated to learning how to prevent, diagnose, and treat diseases that affect adults.

What is the difference between the activities of full-time faculty members in the Division of General Internal Medicine and private attending internists?

Full-time faculty members of the Division perform administrative tasks, undertake procedures, care for patients, teach students and medical residents and conduct research from a base of operations at the Medical Center itself. In many cases, the patients they see are those who do not have a primary care physician in the community. The care provided by these faculty members is usually done in conjunction with the training of students and medical residents, who directly care for patients while being supervised by members of the division. Full-time faculty members hold academic appointments as professors at a medical school, typically at the University of California, Los Angeles or the University of Southern California. The private attending internists maintain offices in the community and spend the bulk of their time engaged in private medical practice. They use the facilities of the medical center when their patients require admission to the hospital or, in many cases, when a patient requires specialized procedures or testing. While the two groups interact in many ways in the provision of patient care and in the administration of the Medical Center, they do not compete for patients.

What is the role of the general internist in the patient's healthcare team?

The provision of high-quality patient care usually requires the cooperation of practitioners of many different disciplines, including physicians, nurses, pharmacists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, respiratory therapists and other important members of the healthcare team. The primary care physician, often a general internist, is the physician who sees a patient through all phases of his or her care and who coordinates the efforts of other professionals to provide all facets of the patient's care, including disease prevention, diagnosis, acute and chronic treatment and rehabilitation.