Derived from the Greek words pais, meaning child, and iatros, which means doctor or healer, a pediatrician is a medical professional who specializes in providing medical care to children. Although there are surviving manuscripts devoted to pediatrics from earlier times, it was not until the middle of the 19th century that it was recognized and developed as a new medical specialty. Known for his many contributions to the field, Abraham Jacobi is considered as the father of pediatrics. He was born in Germany where he received his medical training, but later went to the United States to practice. It was there that he opened the first children's clinic in New York.
Providing physical, mental and emotional care for their patients, pediatricians are concerned with the health of infants, children and teenagers. They perform diagnostic tests to obtain information of the patient's medical condition and administer treatments, therapies, medications and vaccinations to treat illness, disorders or injuries. They also treat those who are suffering from minor injuries, acute and chronic health problems, and physiological and psychological growth and development concerns.
Pediatricians counsel and guide patients and their parents or guardians concerning diet, hygiene and disease prevention. The field of pediatrics is a collaborative specialty - primary care pediatricians may refer patients to a medical specialist if they manifest symptoms of a serious medical condition, in order to efficiently address the issue. Pediatrics is a very broad field, encompassing general practice to children's oncology, hence the need for collaborative effort among medical professionals.
The training for a pediatrician takes approximately 11 years after completing high school, depending on the university and jurisdiction and the degree of specialization required, as they vary considerably across the world.
Typically, after high school, students will need four years of undergraduate courses in a college or university, majoring in biology or another science-related major. The course major need not necessarily be science-related, so long as the pre-med course requirements such as calculus, organic chemistry, biochemistry, biology, chemistry and physics are completed. There is also a medical college admission test to pass along with a certain level of school grades to be attained in order to qualify and get accepted by a medical school.
Four more years will be required working towards a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O.) degree. However, a few schools offer combined undergraduate and medical school programs that last six rather than the customary eight years. The first two years of medical school mainly consist of classroom and laboratory learning, while the last two years involve first-hand clinical experience under the supervision and guidance of licensed professionals. After medical school, the next step would be to complete a one-year pediatric internship, which includes hands-on training and experience in baby care.
After a successful internship, students are required to take a two-year residency program to obtain further knowledge and experience in the field. Once this phase is completed, they are now ready to take the general pediatrics certification program which is necessary for obtaining a license. After getting board certified, they can commence their work as a licensed pediatrician.
Most pediatricians at this stage choose to continue their education in pediatric subspecialties such as adolescent medicine, developmental disorders, gastroenterology, infectious disease, nephrology, oncology, cardiology, endocrinology, etc.
Pediatricians can work in a number of environments, such as hospitals, private practice offices, health maintenance organizations, community health centers, public health clinics, schools, or the military and government. They are less likely to enter solo practice and more likely to work as salaried employees of group medical practices.
In a typical setting, pediatricians enjoy a pleasant working environment as they are generally assigned to offices and examination rooms most amenable to children. That means offices and rooms lined up with children's books, toys and activities to occupy children during waiting periods and distract them when undergoing painful procedures. Working with children has its drawbacks, however. They can be unruly patients, often restless and sometimes hysterical and frightened by doctors and medical procedures. The utmost patience must be exercised when dealing with children, which is where pediatrics training is invaluable.