An endocrinologist is a physician—an MD who after completing medical school goes on to do post-graduate training first by completing a three year residency in internal medicine followed by two to three years of an endocrinology fellowship. After completing each training program, the physician is eligible to take certification examinations to qualify for board certification. After passing the exam, the physician can then call him or herself board-certified in internal medicine and endocrinology. There is an additional designation, which is called “Fellow of the College of Endocrinology” which is designated as F.A.C.E.
This is an additional honor, which is given to endocrinologists who have completed endocrine fellowships and are board-certified.
WHAT IS THE ENDOCRINE SYSTEM?
Endocrinology is a branch of medicine, which deals with disorders of the endocrine system and its secretions called hormones. The glands of the endocrine system include the thyroid, pancreas, ovaries, testes, adrenals, and pituitary. The hormones include thyroid hormone, estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, cortisol, DHEA, insulin, growth hormone and others.
An endocrine disorder occurs when a particular hormone is either deficient or present in excess. Hormones are molecules that communicate signals from one type of cells to another via the blood stream.
Hormones affect every aspect of metabolism and function. The diagnosis and treatment of endocrine diseases requires laboratory tests to a greater extent than for most specialties.
WHAT ARE TYPICAL ENDOCRINE DISORDERS?
The endocrinologist specializes in treating disorders of the endocrine system such as hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, diabetes, disorders of menopause, PMS, andropause, pituitary disorders such as growth hormone deficiency and adrenal disorders such as Cushing’s disease or Addison’s disease.
COMPREHENSIVE LIFE-LONG CARE
Endocrinology involves caring for the person as well as the disease. Most endocrine disorders are chronic diseases that need life-long care.
Care of these chronic diseases necessitates understanding the patient at the personal and social level as well as the molecular. Having an effective physician-patient relationship can be an important part of the therapeutic process.
On a personal note, I find it very satisfying to be an endocrinologist because endocrine disorders are very amenable to treatment. It is indeed gratifying to see a patient come in with a life-threatening overactive thyroid and be totally normal a few weeks later. Or to have a menopausal woman come in absolutely miserable because of insomnia, hot flashes and cognitive issues and have her restored to her normal self within a few weeks. And for me, that's what it's all about...playing a part in making a difference for others.
Marina Johnson, M.D., F.A.C.E.
The Institute of Endocrinology and Preventive Medicine