What is a Pediatrician?
Pediatricians are doctors who specialize in providing health care to children. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states that pediatricians provide primary care, specialty medical care, and surgical care to patients in newborn through young adult age groups. In addition to providing direct medical care, pediatricians often act as advocates for causes affecting children. As of 2011, there were 91,915 pediatricians in the US. Of these, approximately 2/3 were general pediatricians and the other third were medical subspecialists or surgical specialists.
Why Are Pediatricians Different?
Children are not exactly the same as “little adults.” They are biologically different: their organ systems are still developing, and their bodies are still growing. They differ from adults psychologically and developmentally. Because of these factors, children are subject to a host of unique conditions, both normal and abnormal. Pediatricians are specifically trained in normal childhood behavior and development as well as conditions commonly affecting children. They provide specialized care for each child based on age, medical history, and developmental stage.
General pediatricians provide primary care for children, including well care, developmental assessment, vaccinations, and screening for medical diseases and mental health issues. They also treat common childhood illnesses and provide pre-participation exams for activities such as sports and camp participation.
Training: After four years of medical school, general pediatricians pursue additional years of specific training in all aspects of medical care for children. The training, known as residency, is typically three years in duration. After training is complete, pediatricians maintain their competency by participating in continuing medical education (CME) in pediatrics.