Preventive medicine

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Preventive medicine is a specialty of medicine, often called public health although public health professionals are not limited to preventive medicine physicians. The biostatistics and epidemiology components of graduate medical education are such that the program confers a Master of Public Health degree as well as eligibility for specialty board certification.

As the name suggests, these specialists look at the sources of morbidity (i.e., disease or disability) and mortality (i.e., death). They try to minimize the incidence of preventable events, and, when the events occur, mitigate the virulence or severity of its effects. Major causative areas of include infectious disease, occupational safety and health, and environmental factors including toxicology and extremes of pressure encountered in aviation medicine and undersea and hyperbaric Medicine. They will identify and ameliorate cultural, social, and behavioral threats to health; while addiction medicine is not a formal subspecialty of preventive medicine, it is not an uncommon interest, and may form the bulk of a medical toxicology subspecialization


Medical Toxicology

These subspecialists deal not only in the more traditional toxic chemicals, but also biological and radiological hazards. They play an important role in planning responses to weapons of mass destruction incidents, working with nonphysician specialists such as health physicists, chemical engineers, microbiologists, etc. in the prevention, evaluation, treatment and monitoring of injury and illness from exposures to drugs and chemicals, as well as biological and radiological agents. They often work with emergency physicians in planning treatment of poisoning, including venomous animal bites and stings.

Aerospace Medicine

Training programs in this area may be less than a full subspecialization, but adequate to qualify aircrew for safe operation of aircraft. Much of the training in the U.S. is part of military medicine; general medical officers, for example, on aircraft carriers will qualify as "flight surgeons" even if not subspecialty board certified. It is not uncommon to find aerospace physicians themselves qualified as pilots; the U.S. military has programs where such a physician can, to understand the needs better, can have an assignment in a combat aircrew. Aerospace physicians have also been astronauts, working as both mission and payload specialists.

Undersea and Hyperbaric Medicine

Aerospace and undersea medicine both deal with extremes of atmospheric pressure, but at different ends of the spectrum. This subspecialty gives extensive training on treatment in recompression chambers, an essential part of treatment of some pressure-related diseases of diving; this also makes them the experts in hyperbaric oxygen therapy, in which a variety of diseases and poisonings can be treated by saturating the patient with oxygen.