Purpose and Mission
A thoracic medicine specialist is a medical doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of lung disease, especially asthma, emphysema, and pneumonia. These medical specialists are trained to conduct a variety of tests to determine how efficiently a person is breathing. Thoracic medicine specialists, sometimes called pulmonologists, may also perform procedures such as a bronchoscopy to diagnose various breathing issues.
Most thoracic medicine specialists work as a part of a private practice group with other colleagues and are employed on a contract basis, but some are employees of hospitals and clinics.
Doctors in private practice are supervised by the management board of their group, and those who work as employees will likely report to a service chief the clinical director of the hospital.
Supervisory responsibilities for thoracic medicine specialists varies based on seniority and policies at the facility. More experienced physicians tend to have more supervisory responsibilities, including oversight and evaluation of residents, while newer doctors typically supervise less and focus more on patient care.
A thoracic medicine specialist first earns a bachelor’s degree and then completes a four-year medical school program. Medical school is followed by a multi-year clinical residency to learn the ropes from experienced colleagues.
All physicians must register with the Medical Board of Australia and other agencies to practice medicine in Australia. Those who want to become a specialist in thoracic medicine must complete their residency and an additional year of training before applying to the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (FRACP) for a fellowship.
Responsibilities of a Thoracic Medicine Specialist
Thoracic medicine specialists are trained to diagnose and treat disorders and diseases of the respiratory system. Their primary responsibilities include assessing and managing acute and chronic conditions of the respiratory system that impact the lungs, the upper airways as well as the chest wall.
These medical professionals will see a broad range of conditions, including lung cancer, pneumonia, mesothelioma, asthma, and a number of congenital disorders such as cystic fibrosis. Many pulmonologists also treat tuberculosis and other infectious respiratory diseases.
Thoracic surgeons are a related but separate medical specialty. Their primary responsibilities include evaluating patients, planning and performing surgical operations and supervising postoperative care. Other duties may include liaison with nurses and surgical assistants, reviewing medical histories, and consulting with other specialists as required. They often perform procedures such as cardiac catheterization and electrocardiography.