Life Line Screening

 100 E 4th St, Prattville, AL 36067

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Medical Scientists

Medical scientists conduct research aimed at improving overall human health. They often use clinical trials and other investigative methods to reach their findings.

Medical scientists typically do the following:

  • Plan and direct studies to investigate human diseases, preventive methods, and the treatment of disease
  • Develop methods, instruments, and procedures for medical applications and data analysis
  • Prepare and analyze medical samples to identify toxicity, bacteria, or microorganisms or to study cell structure
  • Standardize drug doses and immunization methods for manufacturing drugs and other medicinal compounds
  • Work with health departments, industry personnel, and physicians to develop programs that improve health safety standards
  • Prepare research grant proposals to get funding from government agencies
  • Follow safety procedures to avoid contamination
Many medical scientists, especially in universities, work with little supervision, forming their own hypotheses and developing experiments accordingly. In addition, they often lead teams, technicians, and, sometimes, students who do support tasks. For example, a medical scientist working in a university laboratory may have undergraduate assistants take measurements and observations for the scientistís research.

Medical scientists study biological systems to understand the causes of diseases and other health problems. For example, medical scientists who do cancer research might put together a combination of drugs that could slow the progress of the disease. They would then study that combination in a clinical trial. Physicians may work with the medical scientists to try the new combination with patients who are willing to participate in the study.

In a clinical trial, patients agree to help find out if a particular drug, or combination of drugs, or other medical intervention works. Without knowing which group they are in, patients in a drug-related clinical trial either receive the trial drug or receive a placebo, a drug that looks like the trial drug but does not have the special ingredients.

Medical scientists analyze the data from all the patients in the clinical trial to see if the trial drug did better than the placebo, for whom it worked better, and to answer other research questions. They then write up and report their findings.

Medical scientists do research both to develop new treatments and to try to prevent health problems. For example, they may study the link between smoking and lung cancer or between alcoholism and liver disease.

Medical scientists who work in private industry usually have less freedom to choose their research topics. Although they may not have the pressure of writing grant proposals to get money for their research, they may have to explain their research plans to nonscientist managers or executives.

Many medical scientists work in the federal government, in research universities, or in private industry.

In the federal government, medical scientists conduct research on human diseases and on exploratory methods of solving medical problems. They spend most of their time carrying out clinical trials or developing experiments on nonhuman subjects. Medical scientists eventually present their findings in medical journals or other publications.

In universities, medical scientists do research and investigate new medicinal methods of improving health. They also write grants, to organizations such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF), to secure steady funding for their research.

In addition to doing research, medical scientists in universities and in government who are also medical doctors may see patients, particularly those participating in clinical trials. †

In private industry, medical scientists focus on the development of products such as pharmaceutical drugs and medical instruments. Companies place strong emphasis on the development of products, a process that they hope will culminate with approval from a government agency, often the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The approval process can take several years and be very costly, so private companies typically emphasize development over research.

Physicians and Surgeons

Physicians and surgeons diagnose and treat injuries or illnesses. Physicians examine patients, take medical histories, prescribe medications, and order, perform, and interpret diagnostic tests. They often counsel patients on diet, hygiene, and preventive health care. Surgeons operate on patients to treat injuries, such as broken bones; diseases, such as cancerous tumors; and deformities, such as cleft palates.

There are two types of physicians: M.D. (Medical Doctor) and D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine). Both types of physicians use the same methods of treatment, including drugs and surgery, but D.O.s place additional emphasis on the body's musculoskeletal system, preventive medicine, and holistic (whole person) patient care.

Physicians and surgeons typically do the following:

  • Take a patientís medical history
  • Update charts and patient information to show current findings
  • Order tests for nurses or other healthcare staff to do
  • Review test results to identify any abnormal findings
  • Recommend and design a plan of treatment
  • Answer concerns or questions that patients have about their health and well-being
  • Help patients take care of their health by discussing topics such as proper nutrition and hygiene
In addition, surgeons operate on patients to treat injuries, diseases, or deformities.

Physicians and surgeons work in one or more of several specialties. The following are some of the many types of physicians and surgeons:

Anesthesiologists focus on the care of surgical patients and pain relief. They administer the drugs (anesthetics) that reduce or eliminate the sensation of pain during an operation or other medical procedure. During surgery, they are responsible for adjusting the amount of anesthetic as needed and monitoring the patient's heart rate, body temperature, blood pressure, and breathing. They also work outside of the operating room, providing pain relief in the intensive care unit, during labor and delivery, and for those who suffer from chronic pain.† Anesthesiologists work with other physicians and surgeons to decide on treatments and procedures before, during, and after surgery.†

Family and general physicians assess and treat a range of conditions that occur in everyday life. These conditions include anything from sinus and respiratory infections to broken bones. Family and general physicians typically have a base of regular, long-term patients. These doctors sometimes refer patients with more serious conditions to specialists or other healthcare facilities for additional care.

General internists diagnose and provide nonsurgical treatment for a range of problems that affect internal organ systems such as the stomach, kidneys, liver, and digestive tract. Internists use a variety of diagnostic techniques to treat patients through medication or hospitalization. They may refer patients to other specialists when more complex care is required. They work mostly with adult patients.

General pediatricians provide care for infants, children, teenagers, and young adults. They specialize in diagnosing and treating problems specific to younger people. Most pediatricians treat day-to-day illnesses, minor injuries, and infectious diseases and administer vaccinations. Some pediatricians specialize in pediatric surgery or serious medical conditions that commonly affect younger patients, such as autoimmune disorders or serious chronic ailments.

Obstetricians and gynecologists (OB/GYNs) provide care related to pregnancy and the female reproductive system. OB/GYNs specialize in childbirth. They treat and counsel women throughout their pregnancy, and they deliver babies. †They also diagnose and treat health issues specific to women, such as breast cancer, cervical cancer, hormonal disorders, and symptoms related to menopause.

Psychiatrists are primary mental health physicians. They diagnose and treat mental illnesses through a combination of personal counseling (psychotherapy), psychoanalysis, hospitalization, and medication. Psychotherapy involves regular discussions with patients about their problems. The psychiatrist helps them find solutions through changes in their behavioral patterns, exploring their past experiences, or group and family therapy sessions. Psychoanalysis involves long-term psychotherapy and counseling for patients. Psychiatrists may prescribe medications to correct chemical imbalances that cause some mental illnesses.

Surgeons specialize in treating injury, disease, and deformity through operations. Using a variety of instruments, and with patients under anesthesia, a surgeon corrects physical deformities, repairs bone and tissue after injuries, or performs preventive surgeries on patients. Although a large number perform general surgery, many surgeons choose to specialize in a specific area. Specialties include orthopedic surgery (the treatment of the musculoskeletal system), neurological surgery (treatment of the brain and nervous system), cardiovascular surgery, and plastic or reconstructive surgery. Like other physicians, surgeons also examine patients, perform and interpret diagnostic tests, and counsel patients on preventive healthcare. Some specialist physicians also perform surgery.

D.O.s are most likely to be primary care physicians, although they can be found in all specialties. About 60 percent of D.O.s specialize in primary care areas such as family medicine, internal medicine, OB/GYN, and pediatrics.

Among physicians and surgeons who work in a number of other medical and surgical specialists and subspecialties are allergists (specialists in diagnosing and treating hay fever and other allergies), cardiologists (heart specialists), dermatologists (skin specialists), gastroenterologists, (specialists in the digestive system), pathologists (who study body tissue to see if it is normal), radiologists (who review and interpret x-ray pictures and deliver radiation treatments for cancer and other illnesses), and many others.

Physicians work daily with other healthcare staff, such as nurses, other physicians, and medical assistants. For more information, see the profiles on registered nurses and medical assistants.