Preventive medicine physicians are uniquely trained in public health and clinical medicine so they can understand and reduce the risks of disease, disability and death. They focus their efforts on disease prevention and health promotion at the individual and population levels. Preventive Medicine physicians typically work at the health system level where they aim to bridge the divide between public health and clinical medicine.
Preventive medicine is one of 24 medical specialties recognized by the American Board of Specialties (ABMS). Preventive medicine encompasses multiple "population-based” and clinical approaches to health care. The core competencies of physicians trained in General Preventive Medicine and Public Health include biostatistics, epidemiology, clinical preventive medicine, health management and administration. There are various career paths in preventive medicine from general public health, clinical medicine, academic medicine, international medicine, health policy, research and informatics. Preventive medicine physicians hold a wide range of positions from chief medical officers of private corporations, to directors of state/local health departments, to policy makers within governmental organizations, to program developers for multi-national NGOs, to many other positions.
Preventive medicine physicians can develop expertise in a wide range of areas that impact public health and medicine. Their work settings and schedules vary widely. Most preventive medicine physicians provide direct patient care on a limited basis due to their primary responsibility for the health of a defined population. In terms of work-life balance, preventive medicine physicians can work part- or full-time, avoid taking call and weekend work, and limit their hours worked to 60 or fewer.
Preventive medicine residents typically complete a hospital-based preliminary clinical year and then enter a two-year residency program offered at over 70 institutions around the country. Physicians who have completed a traditional clinical residency may have one year of preventive medicine residency training waived, thereby only necessitating one year of training. All preventive medicine residents must graduate with a Master of Public Health (MPH) or equivalent degree which is included as part of the two-year training program. Certain institutions also offer preventive medicine residencies in combination with a traditional clinical residency through a four- or five-year dual program.