Physicians diagnose and treat human diseases and injuries and practice preventive
medicine. Some also conduct research and/or teach in medical schools. Physicians
receiving M.D. degrees are Doctors of Medicine, while those who receive D.O. degrees
are Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine. Virginia’s three medical schools all offer the
M.D. degree.
Primary care physicians are in high demand both in Virginia and nation wide. They
provide ongoing care to individuals and families, consulting with or referring to specialists when necessary. There are separate sections within this manual on the primary
care areas of family medicine, internal medicine and pediatrics.
Specialists diagnose and treat illnesses, conditions and/or injuries related to a specific
branch of medicine or part of the human body. Descriptions of some medical specialties follow:
• Anesthesiologists administer anesthesia (numbness or sleep) to patients who
undergo surgery.
• Cardiologists treat heart diseases.
• Dermatologists treat skin conditions.
• Gastroenterologists diagnose and treat disorders of the digestive system.
• Geriatricians specialize in the specific health care needs of the elderly.
• Gynecologists educate patients in the prevention and treatment of disorders
of the female reproductive system.
• Neurologists specialize in brain and central nervous system disorders.
• Obstetricians care for pregnant women and deliver babies.
• Oncologists treat patients with cancer.
• Ophthalmologists diagnose and treat eye disorders.
• Orthopedists educate patients in the prevention of skeletal deformities or
ailments and treat these ailments.
• Osteopathic physicians emphasize a whole-person approach to patient care
that emphasizes wellness and prevention. D.O.S. often use a system of handson diagnosis and treatment called osteopathic manipulative medicine that can
reduce pain, increase range of motion and contribute to overall health by
improving the body’s structure and functions.
• Pathologists interpret and diagnose changes in tissue caused by disease.
• Physiatrists specialize in physical and rehabilitative medicine.
• Psychiatrists educate patients in the prevention of mental illnesses, and they
study and treat mental illnesses.
• Pulmonologists treat lungs and respiratory systems.
• Sports medicine physicians treat and help prevent athletic injuries.
• Surgeons perform operations to correct deformities, repair injuries, treat diseases
and improve functions of patients. Among the many subspecialties are neurosurgery
(brain), orthopedic surgery (bones) and cardiothoracic surgery (hearts and lungs).
• Urologists treat urinary tract disorders.

Average Salary Range
$100,000 – $250,000 plus
Educational Requirements
Students interested in becoming a physician should take the most challenging high school courses available in science, math and English. To enter medical school, students must have a bachelor’s degree with a
high grade point average in a pre-medical program or other related major. They must pass a national examination (MCAT) and undergo extensive interviews. Upon completion of medical school, the M.D. or D.O. degree is granted. Most physicians then enter post-graduate training (internships and residencies), receiving specialized instruction and practice. The length of post-graduate training is determined by the area of specialty

Professional Associations

American Osteopathic Association
142 E. Ontario St.
Chicago, IL 60611
American Medical Association
515 N. State St.
Chicago, IL 60610
(312) 464-5000
American Association of College
of Osteopathic Medicine
5550 Friendship Blvd., Suite 310
Chevy Chase, MD 20825
(301) 968-4100
Association of American Medical Colleges