When applying to medical school, you have one goal - to simply get in. However, once you embark on your medical journey, the world of medicine opens up to you and for a while that can be a bit overwhelming. Cardiology, respiratory, neurology, orthopaedics, nephrology, urology.....the list of words thrown at you goes on and on and on. This blog is here to give you a head start to the game, with a number of unusual specialties that not many people think about venturing into when they think of themselves as future doctors. So the next time you’re discussing medicine with fellow applicants, talking with your work experience staff or even in your next med school interview you can show off how vast your knowledge of the medical world is and how determined you are to be part of it.
Maxillofacial is a specialty which is usually surgically based, centring around facial, jaw and oral issues. In the UK, degrees in both medicine and dentistry are required to practice this speciality. In recent years this surgery has sprung to fame thanks to well-publicised developments in surgeries such as facial transplants. In addition to the extreme surgeries, many cosmetic facial procedures can be carried out by these specialised surgeons.
Dermatology as a specialty deals with the treatment of skin and, unbeknown to many, nails and hair. After completing junior doctor years, dermatology usually requires around 3 years of practicing general medicine before completing around 4 years of specialist dermatology training. From treating skin conditions with medicines to performing minor surgeries, dermatology has become a infamous through videos such as those of Dr. Pimple Popper, an American dermatologist who films her dealings of consultations from pore of Winers to abscesses. If you’re not easily disgusted, look up her videos!
Endocrinology looks at the hormones in the body and deals with any imbalances or hormonal problems. It’s a vast area, dealing with ailments from diabetes to Cushing’s syndrome to fertility issues. Endocrinology works like a puzzle, finding where the problem is and thinking about the effects up and downstream of where the hormone comes from. Around 4 years of specialist training is required to become a consultant in endocrinology. A huge issue that endocrinologists deal with that every applicant should know something about is diabetes (know the difference between type 1 and type 2!)
Haematology is the study of blood and its components. Haematologists deal with treating blood disorders from sickle cell anaemia to leukaemia. Once completing junior doctor and general training years, haematology specialist training usually lasts 2-3 years. Have a look at the student section of the British Society for Haematology’s website for more career information and some cool student essays about haematology.
Many people don’t realise that critical care is a specialty in itself and isn’t just run by general medical doctors. Helping patients who are at their most vulnerable, critical care is highly specialist and requires 3 years of acute care training following junior doctor years and then a further 5 years of critical care specific training. Critical care is closely linked with anaesthetics and emergency medicine, with doctors quite often having dual consultancy.
Sport medicine, as might be expected, deals with the prevention and treatment of injuries in sports. Practice of sports medicine is usually on the private market or through affiliation with a certain sport governing body or team. Sports medicine generally is heavily orthopaedic based but can also deal with drugs in sport, sports nutrition and concussion. Check out the Calgary Stampede’s blog article on sports medicine in a rodeo for an unusual case of sports medicine.
Pathology is the study of causes of disease, mostly through the examination of body tissues. There are many sub-specialties of pathology, such as neuropathology and histopathology. Becoming a pathologist requires around 6 years of training post junior doctor years. Pathologists look for irregularities in tissue samples which can range from whole organs to minuscule biopsies.
Dealing with inflammation and autoimmune disease ranging from rheumatoid arthritis, temporal arteritis and lupus, rheumatology manages a large array of pathologies. Pioneering biologic treatment available for some of these conditions are sometimes discussed in ethical interview settings due to their high cost and side effects.
As medicine is all about team work and utilising the multidisciplinary team, all of the above specialties will work together alongside other specialties to ensure excellent patient care. It is important to remember that in medicine, no doctor works in isolation and it’s essential to have an understanding of what other specialties do and how they can help your patient.