Encyclopedia > Medicine

  Article Content


This article is about medical science. For substances that treat patients, see drug, medication, and pharmacology.

In the context of the anthropology of religion, see medicine (shamanism) for objects with supernatural power and/or the supernatural power that such items possess.

A note to contributors: This article is about medicine in general. Please consider adding your contributions about medical topics to individual articles rather than this page (many are linked below, and there are more on the List of medical topics), and please think twice before adding more links here - otherwise this article could easily degenerate into an unreadable list of links.
Medicine is an area of human knowledge concerned with restoring health. It is, in the broadest sense of the term, the science and practice of the prevention and curing of human diseases, and other ailments of the human body or mind. However, it is often used only to refer to those matters dealt with by academically trained physicians and surgeons. There are many traditional and modern methods and schools of healing which are usually not considered to be part of medicine in a strict sense (see health science for an overview).

Medicine has two aspects: both as an area of knowledge (a science), and as an application of that knowledge (the medical professions). Evidence-based medicine is an attempt to link these two aspects through the use of the scientific method and techniques derived from safety engineering.

The various specialized branches of the science of medicine correspond to equally specialized medical professions dealing with particular organs or diseases. It may therefore be difficult to distinguish clearly between the science and the profession.

Table of contents

History of medicine History of medicine -- Timeline of medicine and medical technology

Medical sciences and medical professions

Medicine has both its foundational sciences, and specialized branches dealing with particular organs or diseases. The foundational sciences of medicine frequently overlap with other areas of science (such as veterinary science, biology or chemistry).

The primary medical professions are those of physicians and surgeons. Both professions have many specializations and subspecializations (see below). Dentistry and clinical psychology[?] are separate from medicine in a strict sense, but are both medical fields by the wider definition of the term.

There are also many allied health professions (AHPs): nursing (the care of sick patients), midwifery, pharmacy[?], physiotherapy, speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, dietetics[?] and bioengineering[?].

Basic, supplementary and related sciences

Anatomy is the study of the physical structure of organisms. In contrast to macroscopic or gross anatomy, cytology and histology are concerned with microscopic structures.

Biochemistry is the study of the chemistry taking place in living organisms, especially the structure and function of their chemical components.

Bioethics is a field of study which concerns the relationship between biology, science, medicine and ethics, philosophy and theology.

Cytology is the microscopic study of individual cells.

Embryology is the study of the early development of organisms.

Epidemiology is the study of the demographics of disease processes, and includes, but is not limited to, the study of epidemics.

Public health

Genetics is the study of genes, and their role in biological inheritance.

Histology is the study of the structures of biological tissues by light microscopy, electron microscopy and histochemistry.


Microbiology is the study of microorganisms, including protozoa, bacteria, fungi, and viruses.

Biostatistics is the application of statistics to biological fields in the broadest sense. A knowledge of biostatistics is essential in the planning, evaluation and interpretation of medical research. It is also fundamental to epidemiology and evidence-based medicine.

Neuroscience is a comprehensive term for those disciplines of science that are related to the study of the nervous system. A main focus of neuroscience is the biology and physiology of the human brain.

Pharmacology is the study of drugs and their actions.

Physiology is the study of the normal functioning of the body.

Toxicology is the study of hazardous effects of drugs and poisons.

Diagnostic and imaging specialties

Clinical biochemistry[?]

Clinical microbiology[?] is concerned with the in vitro diagnosis of pathogens such as bacteria, fungi, and protozoa.

Anatomical pathology -- Biochemical pathology[?] -- Forensic Pathology[?]

Radiology is concerned with imaging of the human body, e.g. by x-ray, x-ray computed tomography, ultrasonography and nuclear magnetic resonance tomography.
Interventional radiology[?]

Nuclear Medicine[?] In nuclear medicine, radioactive substances are used for in vivo and in vitro diagnostics. Another field of nuclear medicine is radiation therapy, i.e. the therapeutic use of radioactive substances as well as other sources of ionizing radiation.

Disciplines of clinical medicine

Anesthesiology is the clinical discipline concerned with providing anesthesia as well as the field of research associated with it.

Dermatology is concerned with the skin and its diseases.

Emergency Medicine is concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of acute or life-threatening conditions, including trauma, surgical, medical, pediatric, and psychiatric emergencies.

General practice or family medicine or primary care

Internal medicine is concerned with diseases of inner organs and systemic dieseases, i.e. such that affect the body as a whole. There are several subdisciplines of internal medicine:
Cardiology is concerned with the heart and cardiovascular system and their diseases.
Gastroenterology is concerned with the organs of digestion.
Endocrinology is concerned with the endocrine system, i.e. endocrine glands and hormones.
Haematology or hematology is concerned with the blood and its diseases.
Infectiology is concerned with the study, diagnosis and treatment of infectious diseases.
Nephrology is concerned with diseases of the kidneys.
Oncology is devoted to the study, diagnosis and treatment of cancer and other malignant diseases.
Pulmonology[?] is concerned with with diseases of the lungs.
Rheumatology is devoted to the diagnosis and treatment of rheumatic diseases.

Neurology is concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of nervous system diseases.

Obstetrics and Gynecology (OB/GYN)

Ophthalmology deals with the diseases of the eye and their treatment.

Otolaryngology or otorhinolaryngology or ENT (ear-nose-throat) medicine is a branch of medicine that specialises in the diagnosis and treatment of ear, nose and throat disorders.

Pediatrics or paediatrics is devoted to the care of infants and children.

Preventive Medicine
Community Health Care[?] -- Occupational Medicine

Psychiatry is a branch of medicine that studies and treats mental and emotional disorders.
Psychotherapy -- Clinical psychology[?]

Surgical specialties
There are many medical disciplines that employ operative treatment. Some of these are highly specialized and are often not considered subdisciplines of surgery, although their naming might suggest so.
General surgery
Abdominal surgery -- Vascular surgery[?] -- Endoscopic surgery[?] or Minimally invasive surgery[?] -- Laparoscopic surgery (keyhole surgery)
Cardiothoracic surgery[?] is the surgical specialty that is concerned with the organs of the chest, including the lungs, the heart, and major blood vessels.
Neurosurgery is concerned with the operative tratment of diseases of the nervous system.
Maxillofacial surgery[?] -- Oral surgery[?]
Orthopedic surgery[?] -- Trauma surgery[?] or Traumatology
Pediatric surgery[?]
Plastic surgery includes aesthetic surgery (operations that are done for other than medical purposes) as well as reconstructive surgery (operations to restore function and/or appearance after traumatic or operative mutilation).

Transfusion medicine is concerned with the transfusion of blood and blood components.

Urology focuses on the urinary tracts of males and females, and on the male reproductive system.

Teaching of medicine

Medical training is long and grueling, involving several years of university study followed by several more years of residential practice at a hospital. Most medical students spend some time as an intern[?] -- a medical apprenticeship -- supervised by other doctors. Entry to a medical degree in some countries (e.g. the United States) requires the completion of another degree first, while in other countries (e.g. Australia -- though it is moving towards the American model) medical training can be commenced immediately after secondary education.

The name of the medical degree gained at the end varies: some countries (e.g. the US) call it 'Doctor of Medicine' (abbreviated 'M.D.'), while others (e.g. Australia, Pakistan) call it 'Bachelor of Medicine/Bachelor of Surgery (Chirurgie)' (a double degree, frequently abbreviated 'M.B.B.S' or 'M.B.B.Ch.'). In either case graduates of a medical degree may call themselves doctor. In many countries, a doctorate of medicine is not a PhD which requires original research, but is like a doctorate in law (J.D.) or theology (Th.D.).

A graduate can then enter general practice[?] and become a general practitioner; or they can specialise in any one of a number of medical fields, and become a specialist; or they can become a surgeon. No matter what they choose, even more training is involved.

Institutions in medicine Clinic[?] -- Hospital -- Hospice[?]

Related topics Nursing -- Midwifery -- Dentistry -- Alternative medicine -- Chinese medicine -- Sanitary professions -- Healthcare system -- Nutrition science[?]

See also Big killers -- Rare diseases


Entries not yet sorted Intensive care medicine[?] -- Pain therapy[?] -- Palliative care[?] -- Reproduction medicine[?] -- Sanitation -- Nosology -- Telemedicine[?] -- eHealth[?] -- Consumer Health Informatics[?] -- Telehealth[?] -- Aerospace Medicine[?] -- Physiatry[?] and Rehabiliation medicine[?] -- Forensic medicine[?] -- Andrology[?]

All Wikipedia text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

  Search Encyclopedia

Search over one million articles, find something about almost anything!
  Featured Article
Jamesport, New York

... (3.3 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 42.82% water. Demographics As of the census of 2000, there are 1,526 people, 605 households, and 434 famili ...

This page was created in 36.8 ms