What does a career in clinical medicine look like?

Biomedical engineers involved in clinical medicine serve as physicians who diagnose and care for patients. They take medical histories, perform physical examinations, conduct diagnostic tests, recommend and provide treatment, and advise patients on their overall health and well-being. The ultimate goal of a physician is to promote, maintain, and restore health to their patients. They often work in hospitals, clinics, and other health care settings alongside other physicians, nurses, therapists, and technicians. Their background in biomedical engineering enables them to have a unique perspective on the human body, as well as patient care. Life-long learning is a key aspect of a career in clinical medicine in order to stay abreast of the latest advances in the field.

What are the different types of physicians?

Primary Care Physicians
Primary care physicians treat a wide range of illnesses and regularly provide preventive care. Pediatricians, family practitioners and general internists are all primary care physicians.
Surgeons perform operations to treat diseases and repair injuries
Specialists concentrate on particular types of illnesses or problems that affect specific tissues or organ systems in the body. Cardiologists, Oncologists, Neurologists, and ophthalmologists are examples of specialists.

Source: American Association of Medical Colleges

Why consider a career path in clinical medicine?

You find personal fulfillment in interacting with and treating patients.
You have the desire to improve lives and save lives.
You enjoy the complexity and challenge of discovering new ways to tackle illness and disease.
You enjoying finding solutions to some of the most difficult and demanding problems vexing health care today.

Training and Education

Earn a Bachelor’s Degree (4 years)

A bachelor’s degree provides a foundational understanding of biology, physics, chemistry and math and is required to apply to medical school.

Take the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT)

The Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) is a standardized exam that is required to be taken prior to entrance into a medical school.  

Earn a Medical Degree (4 years)

A medical degree provides fundamental training in science and medicine, as well as laboratory and clinical experiences. 

Complete a Residency Program (3-8 years)

Residency programs allow prospective doctors the chance to interact with patients in a hospital setting within a specific medical specialty. 

Obtain Licensure

Prospective physicians must pass the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) in order to practice medicine.

Get Certified

Certification, although not required to practice medicine, signals a higher level of efficacy in a specific area of medicine.  The American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) conducts certification.

Questions and Answers

What does an average day look like?

Because the roles of physicians are so diverse, an average day is hard to define. Many doctors work more than 60 hours a week and may also have to respond to emergencies and be on call for their patients. Primary care physicians examine and diagnose patients, order lab tests, prescribe medicine, and provide preventative care and follow-up treatment. Specialist physicians have similar responsibilities, but focus their efforts on specific patients with certain diseases or treatments. Surgeons generally work on medical teams and spend most of their time conducting research, interacting with patients, and participating in surgeries to repair the body. 

Do I need to complete a Fellowship?

After completing a residency program, some chose to continue to gain experience and training through a medical fellowship. Fellowships last one to three years and are seen as an opportunity to become an expert in a specific subspecialty area.  Fellowships allow for highly specialized training. 

How do I prepare for a career in clinical medicine?

While medical school training, residency training, and licensure are required, there are many additional ways to prepare for a career in clinical medicine:

  • Gaining experience in a health care setting by volunteering at hospitals or clinics
  • Shadowing a doctor is a great way to find out if a career in medicine might be right for you
  • Seeking out research opportunities in labs at your college or university in order to grain critical skills
  • Working on building a good foundation of math and science coursework and take advances classes
  • Participating in summer enrichment programs on medical school campuses throughout the nation

What is the average salary in medicine?

Physicians in the U.S. earn an average annual salary of $218,860, according to the Dept. of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of May 2013. 

What about continuing education?

Physicians are required to continue taking courses and learning about advancements in the field throughout their career. Each state has their own requirements regarding the types and duration of continuing education needed for medical professionals to maintain their licenses to practice medicine. The Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) regulates continuing medical education for physicians in the U.S. 

What are the traits of an ideal physician?

According to a 2006 study that appeared in Mayo Clinic Proceedings on “Patients’ Perspectives on Ideal Physician Behaviors,” the following are the most important traits of physicians including their definitions:

  • Confident: “The doctor’s confidence gives me confidence.”
  • Empathetic: “The doctor tries to understand what I am feeling and experiencing, physically and emotionally, and communicates that understanding to me.”
  • Humane: “The doctor is caring, compassionate, and kind.”
  • Personal: “The doctor is interested in me more than just as a patient, interacts with me, and remembers me as an individual.”
  • Forthright: “The doctor tells me what I need to know in plain language and in a forthright manner.”
  • Respectful: “The doctor takes my input seriously and works with me.”
  • Thorough: “The doctor is conscientious and persistent.”

What are some relevant professional associations and societies?

Medical professional associations and societies can help keep you abreast of the latest cutting edge technologies and breakthroughs in the field through conferences and journals. They also allow you to build your career network and maintain your professional contacts. See below for a listing of selected groups. 

American Medical Association

American Medical Women’s Association

American Association of Medical Colleges

American Medical Student Association

American College of Physicians

American Society of Clinical Pathologists

Association of American Physicians and Surgeons

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