A doctor is someone who is qualified to treat people who are ill or injured. If a doctor is a qualified surgeon, they are able to operate on those who are ill or injured. Doctors can choose to specialise in different fields. For example, a doctor can specialise in the care of the elderly (geriatrics) or choose to focus on the care of children (paediatrics). Doctors can also choose to become general practitioners or general surgeons, which means they are equipped to deal with a wide range of medical and surgical issues respectively.
Doctors face the challenge of trying to heal people and to keep people as healthy as possible on a daily basis. They do this by using their communication skills to understand what the problem is and their scientific knowledge to know how best to fix it. Doctors have some of the most diverse and challenging careers available. They are amply rewarded by being part of a universally well-respected profession.
The options at the end of a medical degree are vast and diverse and thus the day-to-day life of a doctor varies greatly.
Run-through specialties: histopathology, radiology, ophthalmology, paediatrics, neurosurgery, maxillofacial surgery, public health, medical microbiology, obstetrics and gynaecology
Histopathology is the study of diseased tissue, which means analysing samples from biopsies and using special laboratory techniques to create thin slices and using stains to analyse the disease or benign condition and assess the best treatment option available. Attention to detail, accuracy and being able to work under pressure are key attributes. You may be asked to analyse tissue sampled before a surgeon operates and the outcome will determine how to proceed in the operation. You will make diagnoses of cancer and of benign conditions as well as determining causes of death using post-mortem results.
A career in radiology involves using imaging to diagnose, treat and monitor disease. Technology now allows progressively more advanced detection of disease and increased accuracy. You will cover all parts of the human body, helping to confirm and categorise disease in almost any body cavity. There are lots of opportunities for research and use of rapidly emerging technologies.
Being an ophthalmologist involves diagnosing, treating and managing all conditions related to the eye and the visual system. It is an exciting time for this specialty with many pioneering new treatments being trialled. Working in this field can make a huge impact on patients’ lives and involves working closely with other specialties to manage co-morbid medical conditions, such as helping to optimise control of a patient’s diabetes to manage their diabetic retinopathy. The back of the eye is visible by looking through the pupil so a doctor can actually ‘see’ a lot of the damage that disease processes cause.
Working closely with newborn babies to 16-year-olds, paediatrics is a diverse and rewarding specialty. As a paediatrician you can work mainly in the community or as a general paediatrician in hospital or in a niche sub-specialty. This field of medicine deals with developmental and growth issues in children, childhood diseases and specific childhood needs that are unique from any field of adult medicine. You will work closely with children’s families and consider the environment of the child to manage their health and development holistically.
A sub-specialty of surgery, neurosurgery is a diverse field in its own right. You could become a paediatric neurosurgeon working on facial anomalies and congenital spinal cord defects, work in oncology and operate on brain and spinal cord tumours or work in ‘functional neurosurgery’ performing operations to treat epilepsy or movement disorders like Parkinson’s disease. Some psychiatric conditions are treated with surgery too and the range of options is becoming increasingly diverse.
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