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Medicine Overview


For more information on careers in this field, see the list on the right. For salary ranges, schooling requirements and more, check out the Career Explorer.

Modern medicine generally refers to clinical practice: the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease by a physician. That physician may be an allopathic physician (M.D.) or an osteopathic physician (D.O.)

The scope of medicine is wider, however, than its clinical practice. It also includes, for example, health care science: the application of science and technology to improve the delivery of care. For example, physician scientists conduct basic science and perform translational or clinical research, and biogerontologists are physicians who study what happens to our bodies as we age.

Surgery is another branch of medicine that focuses on diagnosing and treating disease, deformity and injury by incision or manipulation, especially with instruments.

Additionally, as there is greater need for clinical practitioners, those who practice medicine have expanded beyond physicians to include physician assistants and nurse practitioners. While nurse practitioners are considered part of the nursing field rather than medicine, their jobs are similar to physician assistants. Both work with physicians as part of an integrated medical team. Like physicians, they diagnose and treat illness and disease and prescribe medication for patients.

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Note: The Association of American Medical Colleges and the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine have reviewed this overview.