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Pediatrics

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Pediatrics is the branch of medicine that deals with the medical care of infants, children, and adolescents.  Pediatrics differs from adult medicine in many respects. The obvious body size differences are paralleled by maturational changes. The smaller body of an infant or neonate is substantially different physiologically from that of an adult. Congenital defects, genetic variance, immunology, oncology, and a host of other issues are unique to the realm of pediatrics.
   
Childhood is the period of greatest growth, development and maturation of the various organ systems in the body. Training is emphasized in recognizing the difference between normal variants and what is actually pathological.  Another major difference between pediatrics and adult medicine is that children are minors and, in most jurisdictions, cannot make decisions for themselves. The issue of guardianship, legal responsibility and informed consent must always be considered in every pediatric procedure. In a sense, pediatricians often have to treat the parents and sometimes, the family, rather than just the child.
   
In the US, pediatricians are considered to be primary care doctors, along with family practice, internal medicine, and obstetrics. Much of the rest of the world considers them specialists, and parents are only referred to pediatricians for special care not handled by the generalists.
   
The educational requirements for a pediatrician starts with graduation from a four year undergraduate college. Then one goes to medical school for four more years. After completion of medical school, one must complete a residency in pediatrics for an additional three years. The pediatrician may then elect to pass a certification examination to become board certified in General Pediatrics. Further fellowship training, usually three more years, can lead to eligibility for board certification in any of a number pediatric subspecialties such as: adolescent medicine, neonatology, pediatric nephrology, pediatric endocrinology, pediatric cardiology, pediatric infectious disease, pediatric hematology/oncology, pediatric pulmonology, pediatric critical care or pediatric gastroenterology and nutrition.

Author: Chistopher Holder, ND Candidate '07



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