What is an internist?

Internists are doctors of internal medicine. Their expertise is in the general health of adults and the diseases and medical conditions that affect them. Adults often have an internist as their primary care physician.

Internists don't focus on a specific organ system or type of disease. Rather, they've been through well-rounded training that allows them to diagnose and treat a wide variety of health problems and medical conditions faced by adults.

Internists are sometimes confused with family physicians, but unlike internists, family physicians treat adults and children alike. However, like family physicians, internists can serve as primary care providers and form long-lasting relationships with their patients. Also, internists and interns are not the same, with interns being doctors in their first year of residency training.

Some internists focus on hospital patients. As such, they're sometimes referred to as hospitalists. Internists also are often called upon for advice when a problem goes beyond what other physicians can handle on their own.