Medical is a branch of healthcare that deals with the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disease. It incorporates a wide variety of sciences and disciplines, such as anatomy, biochemistry, pharmacology, physiology, epidemiology, pathology, microbiology, genomics, molecular biology and clinical medicine. A medical doctor, or physician, may choose to specialize in one or more of these fields.
Medicine is a global profession and its scope and scientific bases vary widely from country to country. Medical education and training typically involves a period of supervised clinical practice, known as residency, after completing university medical school. Physicians then may choose to further sub-specialize within their field of practice or work in interdisciplinary fields such as public health, preventive medicine, or medical ethics.
Most medical disciplines have their own professional societies and organizations, including journals, meetings, and educational and research activities. Regulatory bodies exist to ensure that physicians are licensed or registered in their field, and have completed the required training, and to act as a safeguard against unqualified practitioners.
The practice of modern medicine is conducted mainly in specialized hospitals or regional centers that can offer services not available at local hospitals, such as tertiary care for trauma and burns, high-risk pregnancies and organ transplantation. Many highly specialized hospitals are equipped with advanced diagnostic and therapeutic facilities such as radiology, cardiac surgery, maternity units and radiation oncology.
In addition to hospitals, medical practices can also be found in clinics, private offices and community health centres. Patients usually see a primary care provider or physician, such as a family practitioner or general practitioner, who will refer them to a specialist when appropriate.
Forensic medicine, conservation medicine, diving medicine, medical geology and gender-based medicine are some of the more esoteric branches of modern medicine. Forensic medicine includes forensic pathology, which determines cause and time of death in a deceased person, as well as reconstructing the facial features of an unknown deceased person for identification purposes. Conservation medicine involves the study of environmental impact on human and animal health, and medical geology applies principles of geology and ecology to medical problems.
Medical terms are complex, with a prefix that often indicates the area of specialization, followed by a root or suffix that describes a function, procedure, disorder or state of being. Medical terminology is used throughout the healthcare industry, and learning it is a prerequisite for most careers in the field.
Medical science is a constantly evolving discipline, and the development of new technologies frequently impacts medical practice. For example, the use of lasers in medicine is a recent development that has revolutionized some procedures. Likewise, genomics and knowledge of evolutionary biology are influencing medical technology, treatment and decision-making. The Hippocratic Oath is a guiding ethical principle for doctors and is widely credited with shaping modern medicine. It emphasizes the importance of empirical evidence in the decision-making process, and discourages charlatans from practicing medicine. The Oath is recited by medical students at the start of their careers as part of their pledge to uphold the highest standards of healthcare.