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Doctor, Family Practice

Doctor, Family Practice

A family practice doctor is the primary health care professional responsible for treating people for most conditions. Family physicians work in private offices, group practices, and hospitals, caring for every family member from before birth until the time of death. Under America's health insurance system, most people go first to their family practice doctor for all complaints, from infections to chronic illnesses to preventive medicine.

Family practice doctors approach the treatment of the family as a unit, focusing on health promotion, disease prevention, and psychological issues affecting health, as well as treatment of disease. Depending on the condition, treatment may include prescribing medicines, recommending lifestyle changes such as exercise and diet, or referral for other types of treatment, including surgery, physical therapy, or psychotherapy. The doctor works in partnership with other health care professionals, including nurse practitioners, nurses, and medical assistants.

DELBRÜCK, MAX (19061981)

German-born U.S. biologist who received, with Salvador Luria and Alfred Hershey, the 1969 Nobel Prize in physiology for his work on bacteriophages, viruses that infect bacteria. In 1939, Delbrück invented an easy way to grow bacteriophages in the lab, and in 1949 he and Hershey showed that the genetic material of different viruses can combine to make entirely new viruses.

To become a family practice doctor, one must first earn a bachelor's degree (either a bachelor of arts or bachelor of science) from a four-year college, and then earn a doctorate of medicine (M.D.) degree from a medical school. This usually takes four years, and combines classes and clinical experience. Following this, doctors undergo three years of postgraduate training, called internship and residency. During residency, they receive training in the full range of medical disciplines, including pediatrics, obstetrics/gynecology, internal medicine, preventive medicine, surgery, and psychiatry. Family practice doctors often choose this career because they enjoy participating in the comprehensive care of people of all ages, and they desire to help people attain and maintain good health.

see also Doctor, Specialist; Nurse; Nurse Practitioners

Richard Robinson


American Academy of Family Physicians. <>.

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