Family Medicine vs Internal Medicine

Family medicine is the medical specialty that provides continuing, comprehensive health care for the individual and family. It is a specialty in breadth that integrates the biological, clinical and behavioral sciences. The scope of family medicine encompasses all ages, both sexes, each organ system and every disease entity.
AAFP. “Family Medicine, Definition of.”

First, let’s start with what it takes to become a doctor. After completing an undergraduate degree (usually 4 years), one must go through the 4 fun years of medical school. While each school operates differently, the fundamentals are the same – learn book stuff, learn clinical stuff, see patients.

After medical school is residency (the first year of which is called internship) and this is where the training starts to really differ. Pediatrics residents focus on babies and children, surgical residents focus on surgery, ophthalmology residents focus on eyes, internal medicine residents focus on adults.

Family medicine residents focus on…everything. Family medicine residents learn adult medicine (including ICU), pediatric medicine, gynecology, obstetrics (although many if not most don’t continue to practice after residency) and psychiatric care. There is time devoted to most specialties (cardiology, dermatology, orthopedics, gastroenterology, etc) and more time is spent in an area of interest to that particular resident.

Internal medicine residents also get time devoted to specialties, but don’t have the pediatric or obstetric training that the family medicine residency requires. Internal medicine offers more options to specialize after residency – cardiology, rheumatology, pulmonology, etc. Family medicine is more limited in this manner – geriatrics, sports medicine, obstetrics.

Both family physicians and internists can provide high quality primary care. Importantly, you want a physician who will look at you as a whole person, not a disease or ailment. Remember, your goal is a long term commitment and working relationship. When you’re seeking a medical spouse, a one night stand just won’t do.

Written by M. Mitchell, M.D.


  1. says

    I think it is about time I found a good family medicine clinic. I’ve been bouncing around different places with mixed results for a long time. I’ve always believed that specialization is key. Unfortunately I think specialized clinics can carry preconceptions of with them that effect the end result you get out of them. I want someone that has the knowledge to understand me as a whole. This article helped me come to the conclusion that I want to find someone that can see the bigger picture. Who knows, maybe the little issues I have are related to some bigger things going on in the background that only someone that knows me more personally can see. Thanks for this!

  2. says

    This was an interesting article. It seems like there are pros and cons to both. They help different roles. For most of my needs, I think my family will just stick with our family doctor. He knows our history and is pretty experienced.

  3. says

    I really like your writing style, fantastic info, thank you for putting up :D. “I hate mankind, for I think myself one of the best of them, and I know how bad I am.” by Joseph Baretti.

  4. says

    When I originally commented I clicked the -Notify me when new feedback are added- checkbox and now each time a remark is added I get four emails with the same comment. Is there any manner you may take away me from that service? Thanks!

    • Michelle Mitchell says

      Sorry about that! I’ve been working with my website guy this week trying to get this fixed for you. Hope it worked.

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