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  • 11 June 2021
  • 13 min read

Medical Doctor Specialities Explained

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  • Dr Jude
    Trauma & Orthopaedic Surgeon
    • Mat Martin
    • Aubrey Hollebon
    • Laura Bosworth
    • Richard Gill
  • 0
  • 2604
Play video: "It's just a wonderful career. I don't regret any moment of it. And I would definitely do it all again."

Orthopaedic Surgeon, Dr Jude, gives an overview of the various roles and specialities that a Medical Doctor can do, and how they each integrate within the wider world of health.

Topics covered in this article


Picking A Speciality

Orthopaedic Surgery

Plastic Surgery

General Surgery

Other Surgical Specialities

General Medicine

Miscellaneous Specialities

General Practice

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What's up guys. Welcome back.

My name is Dr. Jude.

I'm an Orthopaedic Surgeon working here in London.

I did all my training, well, most of it in London.

And I spent a little bit of time in Canada was a very short stint in the US and things differ slightly across the pond.

So today, we're going to talk about different options available to you when you become a Doctor in the UK.

So the great thing about Medicine, in general, is that there are so many options available to you.

And I'm sure that once you become a Doctor, you will find a specialty that aligned with your mindset, your personality, your work ethic, your vision for your personal life.

And you will, I'm sure be very happy.

But it is about getting that decision right and maybe you're not even a Doctor, maybe you just want to know what are the different types of Doctors and that's what we're going to talk about today.

Picking A Speciality

Okay. So there are tons of medical specialties and I obviously cannot cover all of them in detail in one video, but we'll do our best and we'll talk broadly.

So in the UK, you go to medical school for five to seven years, depending on whether you intercalate or whether you did a undergraduate degree.

Then you do the foundation program, which is two years, and you do a little bit of everything.

But after that, you need to know what do you want to do.

And I would divide, personally to specialties into medical specialties, procedural and surgical specialties, and miscellaneous specialties that are a bit of everything.

So the surgical specialties in general will complete a training program of eight years after foundation training.

And so, for example, I'm an Orthopaedic Surgeon.

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Orthopaedic Surgery

So I completed the core surgical training program then the orthopaedic training program.

In orthopaedics, that in itself is a huge specialty.

We are divided into subspecialties and a lot of what we do is trauma so fixing broken bones.

In principle, our practice focuses on the restoration of function, getting people out of pain, back to doing the things that they want to do.

And this can include arthroplasty in which you do joint replacements.

It can be hand surgery, shoulder and elbow surgery, hip and knee surgery, arthroscopy in which you focus more on keyhole procedures and soft tissue reconstruction and paediatric orthopaedic surgery.

And there are lots of even sub-specialties within the subspecialties.

It really depends on how far you want to go, but there are lots of options.

A lot of Orthopaedic Surgeons tend to be like ex athletes because we're focused so much on kind of restoring function, getting people back to what they want to.

I think if you have been troubled by injury in the past, you naturally gravitate toward musculoskeletal medicine and surgery.

And that's kind of what orthopaedic surgery is.

Plastic Surgery

Then you've got things like plastic surgery, and I would call it plastic and reconstructive surgery because I think a misconception is that plastic surgery is about cosmetic surgery.

And actually, that is a very small part of what they do or their focus is on restoration of aesthetic rather than function, but often it's function as well.

And the aesthetic comes from any manner of problems.

So it can be trauma, it can be tumours, breast surgery, there are specialist hand Surgeons within the field of plastic surgery.

And it is such a diverse specialty.

It's so general, but also can be very specialized as well.

And if you're somebody who really enjoys being particular about what it is you're trying to do, and you also, you have a kind of creative flare along with an artistic flare.

This might be something that you absolutely love.

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General Surgery

And then you've got general surgery and General Surgeons tend to focus more on the abdomen and the GI tract.

A lot of their surgery is in treating cancers, looking after unwell patients with things like appendicitis, pancreatic problems, upper GI problems.

And so their subspecialties include things like upper GI, colorectal surgery, even breast surgery, vascular surgery, which is now kind of breaking away and becoming its own surgical specialty.

But traditionally, you became a General Surgeon and then a vascular Surgeon.

Other surgical specialties include urology, in which most of what they do is focused on the genital urinary tract.

They treat things like kidney stones, renal tumours, bladder conditions.

And you've got Neurosurgeons.

Neurosurgeons can be specific, Neurosurgeons who treat the brain and spinal cord.

But in orthopaedic surgery, we also have spinal Surgeons and there's a big overlap with the Nurosurgeons.

Other Surgical Specialities

Other surgical specialties include ENT in which you focus on an ear, nose and throat.

Cardiothoracic surgery, which is surgery around the chest and the heart, the lungs.

Maxillofacial surgery and paediatric surgery.

Now, obviously these are all difficult fields to get into and even more difficult fields to become an expert in, but it is so rewarding.

What happens usually is you just get inspired, your personality or your other, we think just clicks were of a certain specialty, and then you run with it and the rest is history.

Now there are other procedural specialties where they aren't technically members of the Royal College of Surgeons, but they still complete surgical procedures.

And the biggest one obviously is obstetrics and gynaecology because they operate women with gynaecological disorders or obstetricians in which they're focused more on mommy and baby.

Ophthalmologists who diagnose and treat disorders of the eye.

Then you've got radiologists who diagnose and treat patients using a range of imaging modalities, such as MRI or ultrasound scan, CT.

And within Medicine, we joke and sometimes call them vampires because a lot of the time they're sat in dark rooms, looking at screens, interpreted scan.

And now with interventional radiology, radiologists are able to do really, really interesting things

And we call them interventionists because they are now able to actually treat patients using things like CT guidance, ultrasound guidance, and do a whole range of procedures.

General Medicine

Okay, so onto the medical specialties, and these include obviously general medicine.

And I always felt sorry for the on call general medical team, because they were so busy.

It's so general and they treat a whole range of medical problems and you'll never find them sat down chilling with nothing to do because everything ends up on their doorstep.

They're kind of the jack of all trades.

There are medical subspecialties, which include haematology in which Doctors diagnose and treat disorders of the blood, which include things like leukaemia, anaemia and so on.

And then you have specialties such as gastroenterology in which you are a physician who focuses on disorders of the GI tract.

So the stomach and the bowl and the colon.

And they can do things like endoscopies and colonoscopies.

A great specialty.

If I was a medic, this is something I probably would have considered just because of how procedural it is, but hey, that's just me.

I like working with my hands.

And then you've got other medical specialties, which include things like endocrinology, immunology, rheumatology, infectious diseases.

I'm probably forgetting some, but yeah, so there's a broad scope of medical subspecialties, which you can consider.

Miscellaneous Specialities

So there are other medical specialties which are kind of called miscellaneous and that doesn't really describe them properly, but they don't technically come under medicine or surgery.


And the first obvious one is paediatrics.

And you could imagine that as basically being general medicine, but for children.

And children are not little adults.

And that's the first thing is that they are very different, they are an entirely different species in their own right.

Which is why you have Doctors dedicated solely to treating children.


Then as psychiatry and psychiatry, often I think in the non-medical field often confuses people because you've got Psychologists, who are academics in their own right.

But then you've got a Psychiatrist who are medically qualified Doctors.

So you have to go to medical school to become a Psychiatrist.

And then you treat disorders of the mind.

Mental health is your focus.

And there are sub-specialties in psychiatry.

And these include things like child and adolescent psychiatry, general adult psychiatry, forensics, substance misuse.

And I'm sure there probably are more.


Then we've got anaesthesia.

And I would be nowhere without my aesthetic colleagues.

Now, if you become an Anaesthetist or Anaesthesiologist, depending on where you work, your focus is on putting patients to sleep before surgery, looking after them during surgery, waking them up safely and doing a whole bunch of procedures.

A lot of Anaesthetists will work on intensive care and look after unwell patients.

Emergency Medicine

The cool and sexy for a long time was emergency medicine working in the ED, after we had 'ER'.

I used to love 'ER', back in the day that made it look super cool.

Believe me, it's not as cool as that.

Being in the emergency department at three o'clock in the morning on a Saturday when everybody else is either coming back from a party or just asleep and you are in the emergency department with your sleeves rolled up, blood all down your arms, pulling glass out of somebody's forehead.

Maybe it's quite cool to be fair.

But yeah, so mostly department is a place where you will never get bored.

You'll see everything.

They really do keep the hospital ticking over.

And there's never a dull moment in the emergency department.

So salute.

Sports Medicine

We've kind of got a new specialty as well, which is called sports medicine.

We've got a specific program dedicated to producing sports physicians.

And a lot of the time they work part-time in a hospital and part-time working with sport clubs.

And so that's become quite a cool, interesting field.

Be interesting to see where that goes in the future.

And other miscellaneous specialties include things that public health, in which your focus is on organizing procedures, protocols, pathways, to ensure that healthcare is disseminated appropriately.

I think, I don't know.

I don't do a great deal of public health.

General Practice

And last, but by no means least we have general practice or family medicine depending on where you are.

But essentially, you work in the community, and you provide a whole range of care to patients, and you coordinate which patients can be treated at home in the community in which patients need to go off and see specialists.

It's very important that as you clinically, you're very good so you don't miss things.

But also, you need to be an excellent communicator and caring and you foster real, lasting relationships with some patients.

I'm sure I probably left out a specialty. I did! Cardiology!

Now cardiology is a great medical specialty, and they focus on treatment of heart conditions.

Okay, I think that's it.

In general, surgical specialties take a little bit longer, but in general, we train for a long time in the UK compared to the US or Canada but don't let that put you off.

It's a fantastic journey.

And actually overall, in the grand scheme of your career, your training time is actually very short, but who cares how long it is because you're going to have a great time.

You're going to meet some fantastic people.

You're going to travel the world at 10 courses become super specialized and it's just a wonderful career.

I don't regret any moment of it.

And I would definitely do it all again.

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  • Dr Jude
    Trauma & Orthopaedic Surgeon

About the author

  • Dr Jude
    Trauma & Orthopaedic Surgeon

I am a trained Trauma & Orthopaedic Surgeon and Clinical Fellow at the University of Toronto in Canada. After graduating from the university of Manchester in the UK, I completed post-graduate training (e.g residency) in Trauma & Orthopaedics in London. I hold several professional memberships including AO trauma, Royal College of surgeons of England, the British Orthopaedic association and the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

    • Mat Martin
    • Aubrey Hollebon
    • Laura Bosworth
    • Richard Gill
  • 0
  • 2604

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