What Is An Endocrinologist?

Posted by Medical Board on November 16, 2016 in Hormones Last updated on May 23, 2019 What Is An Endocrinologist?

What is an endocrinologist?

An endocrinologist is a medical doctor who specializes in the treatment of hormonal disorders as they relate to the endocrine system. These specially trained physicians diagnose and treat diseases and deficiencies in the glands of the body that release hormones. The endocrine system affects nearly every important function in the body including the cardiovascular system, bone and tissue growth, reproduction, metabolism, puberty, and menopause. It is always the goal of treatment to restore natural balance to hormones that are either “under” or “over” produced due to disease, infection, damage, or the aging process.

What does an endocrinologist do?

Endocrinologists diagnose and treat hormonal imbalances involving the glands in the endocrine system. Depending on the cause of the hormone imbalance, this is done through drug treatment, surgical procedures, hormone replacement therapy, or other medical interventions including diet and lifestyle changes.

Common conditions treated by endocrinologists include:

  • Menopause/andropause
  • Diabetes
  • Metabolic disorders
  • Growth deficiencies
  • Osteoporosis
  • Diseases of the thyroid
  • Endocrine gland cancers
  • Abundance/deficiency of hormones
  • Disorders involving cholesterol
  • Blood pressure disorders
  • Infertility

Some endocrinologists do not directly treat patients, but work in the field of endocrine research. These physicians work to develop new pharmaceuticals to treat hormone imbalances more effectively. Some work in research divisions of universities or medical centers conducting clinical trials for various new drugs.

What does it take to become an endocrinologist?

  1. A four-year course of study must be completed in a bachelor’s degree program.
  2. A four-year medical school program must be completed in an osteopathic (D.O.) or allopathic (M.D.) program.
  3. *Before pursuing residency, some medical programs require state licensure (or that primary steps toward licensure be taken).
  4. Obtain a state license. For the M.D. program, physicians must take and pass the United States Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE). This is a 3-part examination that tests on human anatomy and medicine. D.O.s must take and pass the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination (COMLEX-USA).
  5. A 3-year residency in internal medicine must be completed. Under the close supervision of a board-certified physician, residents will work with patients in a clinic, or hospital setting, and may participate in research, evaluations, and advanced clinics.
  6. Residents must take and pass the Certification Examination through the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM).
  7. An additional 2-3 year fellowship in endocrinology is required. Fellowships may focus on one specific area of endocrinology such as, reproduction/fertility, pediatric endocrinology, endocrine pathology, or diabetes treatment.
  8. For board certification in endocrinology, individuals must take and pass the Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism Exam, administered by the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM).
  9. Continuing medical education credits (CME) are available to help endocrinologists grow and learn new techniques and procedures in their field. These are offered through The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE).

Program Coursework

To become an endocrinologist, courses must be completed satisfactorily and include the following:

  • Thyroid imaging and analysis
  • Clinical endocrinology
  • Endocrinology and genetics
  • Molecular endocrinology concepts
  • Endocrine tumors

Generally, it takes at least 10 years to complete all of the required coursework and training necessary to become a licensed endocrinologist.

Employment Outlook

The field of endocrinology is expected to grow 24 percent by the year 2020. Individuals interested in a career path as physicians are encouraged to carefully research and consider the specific steps necessary for licensure in this profession.

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