Choosing a medical specialty is one of the most important decisions you can make as a medical student. There are many options to think about when determining your career path. For example, do your interests lie mainly in patient care, research, teaching, or all of the above? Do you envision yourself going into a community-based practice, working at an academic medical center, or perhaps doing research in a corporate or government setting? If you have an interest in hematology, it is possible to pursue any of these career tracks.
Hematology is a cognitive specialty, which means that it requires critical thinking and problem-solving to diagnose complicated medical cases and design treatment plans, as opposed to performing routine procedures. Hematology combines a broad range of disciplines – for example, hematologists care for patients with certain cancers, genetic diseases, and illnesses that can result from hospitalization for other conditions. Hematologists are often involved in the care of critically ill patients, and they treat some of the most common diseases in the western world (such as anemia and thrombosis). More often than not, hematology training programs are combined with oncology, so many physicians choose to become board-certified in both hematology and medical oncology.
The field of hematology offers great potential for groundbreaking advances, and patient care and research in hematology are closely aligned. For example, research into the molecular cause of diseases has led to the development of targeted therapies that have revolutionized patient care. From identifying a genetic factor that increases one’s risk of blood clots, to caring for a child with leukemia, to recommending a course of treatment for a patient with sickle cell anemia, hematologists face a variety of challenging cases that span a wide range of ages and ethnicities.
Today, there are thousands of hematologists practicing in the United States. In the near future, there will be an even greater need for hematologists as the aging Baby Boomer population results in an increased demand for doctors across all specialties.
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