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Most folks blessed with relatively good health will see their physicians (FKA internists, referring to “internal medicine”) once or twice a year for a physical or a bout of flu or the like. Other folks dealing with specific issues or those with chronic ailments might see slightly more specialized doctors, such as a pulmonologist or a podiatrist. But if you thought that an MD focused on the lungs or the feet was highly specialized, then you have much to learn about the diverse field of medicine. There are doctors out there with such specialized training and such narrow focus of practice, we bet you won’t even have heard of the conditions they’re treating, much less the title of the specialist so tasked.
If you have never had a kidney stone, then chances are you have never met a nephrologist. That’s because these highly trained and specialized MDs spend all day, every day focusing on ailments of the kidney (well, when they’re working, that is—they likely enjoy reading and travel and other such hobbies in their free time). Because the kidneys are such a vital part of bodily function and because so many things can go wrong back there, as we age, many of us may yet find ourselves having to deal with a nephrologist one of these days.
You know how pathologists are medical specialists who study diseases, right? Well what do you call it when you mix a pathologist with Indiana Jones? That’s right, paleopathology! These specialists study diseases in ancient human beings, trying to learn how various ailments have changed and spread over the years. The better we understand the history of a disease, the better we can work to prevent it in the present and future, see?
Serologists spend their days studying fluid. Bodily fluid, that is. A serologist may be tasked with separating plasma from a blood sample and then testing it for the presence (or absence) of various antibodies or bacteria, they may conduct forensic studies on samples collected at crime scenes, or they may help diagnoses conditions such as Celiac disease, Rheumatoid Arthritis or even certain cancers. Serologists can also perform more common tasks, such as determining a patient’s blood type.
The field of parasitology is rapidly expanding as we begin to understand just how vital and diverse a role the microbes in the human body play in our overall health. It is calculated that as much as one to three percent of an average person’s body mass is actually made up of microorganisms! So, it’s probably a good thing that we have an entire branch of medicine dedicated to the study of the relationship between so-called parasites and hosts.
1 Aviation Medicine
That’s right, kids! There is a whole field of medicine devoted to the study and treatment of medical conditions caused by factors associated with flight and even space travel! A “flight medicine” or “aerospace medicine” practitioner works almost exclusively with pilots, flight crews and astronauts. The common issues in this field are anything but common elsewhere: a flight medicine doctor might deal with a pilot suffering from altitude sickness one day and might be studying how months in a zero gravity environment like the International Space Station will affect someone the next.