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Difference Between an Intern and an Internist
February 2000

Q. What is the difference between an intern and internist?

A. An intern is a first year medical resident (doctor in training) for whatever specialty he/she is studying. An intern is not qualified to practice medicine autonomously. His/her patient care is supervised by senior resident doctors and attending doctors.

An internist is a physician who has completed at least a three year internal medicine residency training program specializing in adult medical problems. He/she is qualified to practice medicine autonomously and may be termed and attending doctor for a given patient. Many internists also take a complex exam given by the American Board of Internal Medicine, and if passed, they would be a "Board Certified Internist". A much better name for an internist (in my opinion) would be an "Adult Medicine Specialist". Internist can manage a host of medical illnesses in patients approximately age 15 years old and up, ranging from a sore throat, Headaches, Back Pain, Diabetes, High blood pressure, High Cholesterol, to Chest Pain, Emphysema, Strokes and many other diseases.

An internist has more training than a "family physician" in adult medicine, but internists do not take care of children and do not perform any major surgery. For more info, you may contact the American Board of Internal Medicine: 1-800-441-2246

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