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Medicine refers both to an area of science and a group of professions. It is, in the broadest sense of the term, the science and practice of the prevention and cure of human diseases, and other aliments of the human body or mind. However, it is often used only to refer to those matters dealt with by physicians and surgeons, excluding such areas as dentistry and clinical psychology.

Medicine has two aspects: as both an area of knowledge (a science), and as an application of that knowledge (the medical professions).

Evidence-Based Medicine is an attempt to link these two aspects through the use of the Scientific Method and techniques derived from safety engineering.

Medical Sciences

Medicine has both its foundational sciences (anatomy, physiology, histology, pharmacology, microbiology, biochemistry), and specialized branches dealing with particular organs or diseases.

The foundational sciences of medicine frequently overlap with other areas of science (such as veterinary science or chemistry).

The various specialized branches of the science of medicine dealing with particular organs or diseases are also specialized medical professions. Thus it is difficult to distinguish clearly between the two.

Medical Professions

The primary medical professions are those of physicians and surgeon. Both professions have many specializations. Dentistry and clinical psychology are separate from medicine in a strict sense, but are both medical fields by the wider definition of the term.

There are also allied fields to medicine: nursing (the care of sick patients), midwifery, diagnostic fields (pathology, medical imaging), radiation therapy, physiotherapy.

Where do chiropractic and osteopathy fit in?

Teaching of Medicine

Medical training is long and grueling, involving several years of university study followed by several more years of residental practice at a hospital. Entry to a medical degree in some countries (e.g. the United States) requires the completion of another degree first, while in other countries (e.g. Australia -- though it is moving towards the American model) medical training can be commenced immediately after secondary education.

The name of the medical degree gained at the end varies: some countries (e.g. the US) call it 'Doctor of Medicine' (abbreviated 'M.D.'), while others (e.g. Australia, Pakistan) call it 'Bachelor of Medicine/Bachelor of Surgery (or Chirurgie)' (a double degree, frequently abbreviated 'M.B.B.S' or 'M.B.B.Ch.'). In either case graduates of a medical degree may call themselves doctor. (But a doctor of medicine cannot be considered a doctorate, in the sense that a PhD is).

A graduate can then enter general practice and become a general practicioner; or they can specialise in any one of a number of medical fields, and become a specialist; or they can become a surgeon. No matter what they choose, even more training is involved.

Branches of Medicine

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Various diseases


See also: Chinese medicine