Allopathic physicians who teach may spend more time in the office or laboratory than with patients.
An allopathic physician or physician (MD) practices a biologically based approach to treating illness and injury. Allopathic medicine is a term referring to conventional medical practice, also called Western or modern medicine. This physician uses pharmacological agents or other physical intervention to diagnose, treat, and prevent the symptoms and processes of disease and other conditions. Other functions include examining patients, ordering and analyzing diagnostic tests, and collecting and reviewing medical histories.
Individuals who plan to become allopathic physicians in the United States are generally required to attend medical school.
For most people living in the Western world, an allopathic doctor is the most familiar type of doctor. A doctor usually works in a clinic, hospital or private practice, where he sees and examines patients. They work to prevent and cure illness and injury by consulting a patient’s medical history, as well as ordering and interpreting diagnostic tests. Many specialize, working, for example, specifically with children or treating a certain type of cancer.
Allopathic physicians may consult with their colleagues to determine the best treatment for a patient.
The typical contact of an allopathic physician with a patient begins when the patient makes an appointment. The appointment may be for a routine physical exam, a vaccination, or for assessment of symptoms and diagnosis of a condition. The doctor usually starts by listening to the patient describe the reason for the appointment and then performs an examination, a review of the medical history, and diagnostic tests if necessary. All of this information is used by an allopathic physician when trying to arrive at a definitive diagnosis.
Once the diagnosis is made, the doctor will usually recommend a treatment plan that may, but not always, include pharmaceutical drugs. If surgery or further examination by a specialist is required, the patient will be referred. In emergency situations, a doctor may not be able to speak or obtain consent from a patient before treatment. In such cases, the physician often needs to make a judgment about the best way to proceed, perhaps in consultation with colleagues.
Rather than working directly with patients, some allopathic physicians teach or do research in laboratories. This research may be funded by a government, a private company, or another source. Research topics vary widely, from discovering the cause of a specific condition to finding a cure for a disease.
A person who plans to become an allopathic physician in the United States or Canada must first obtain a bachelor’s degree before completing medical school. Most medical school prerequisite courses are dominated by the sciences, including general and organic chemistry, physics, and biology. Biochemistry, calculus, and a behavioral science like psychology may also be needed. Additionally, a medical school usually requires an applicant to take an aptitude test such as the Medical College Admission Test® or MCAT® and spend time following an allopathic practitioner in practice.
In the United States, medical schools require four years of study in addition to the undergraduate degree. The first two years are usually pre-clinical, during which students focus on lectures and lab classes on subjects such as physiology, pharmacology, and biochemistry. The last two years are the clinical phase. Students are placed in teaching hospitals or similar settings where they work with patients under the supervision of attending physicians. Upon graduation, students cannot practice as an allopathic physician on their own until they complete their internship.
Homeopath Samuel Hahnemann coined the term allopathic medicine around 1810. It is commonly used by advocates of alternative medicine when referring derogatorily to conventional or allopathic physicians, many of whom have never accepted the label. While homeopathy is based on the belief that illness can be treated with dilute solutions that should produce similar symptoms in a healthy person, an allopathic physician is trained and relies primarily on pharmacological treatments that produce effects different from those of illness or injury.