Purpose and Mission
A rheumatologist is a medical doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the joints, muscles and bones. Conditions typically treated by rheumatologists include rheumatic diseases such as arthritis, tendonitis, osteoporosis, lupus, myositis and scleroderma.
It turns out at least 100 rheumatic diseases have been identified to date, and experts say of number of these conditions can be quite difficult to diagnose and/or treat.
Many rheumatologists are members of a private practice, and are employed on a contract basis, but some are direct employees of hospitals and clinics.
Those in private practice are supervised by the management board of their group and the medical committee of the hospitals where they practice. Those who work as employees typically report to a department head or a clinical director.
Experienced rheumatologists tend to have more supervisory responsibilities, often including supervising and evaluating residents and promotions. Less experienced physicians have fewer supervisory responsibilities and focus more on patient care.
All doctors first complete a bachelor’s degree to qualify for admission to a four-year medical school program. Following medical school, a rheumatologist completes a three- or four-year clinical residency (usually internal medicine or pediatrics) working with experienced colleagues.
Note that all physicians must register with the Medical Board of Australia and other agencies to practice medicine in Australia. Doctors who want to specialize in rheumatology must successfully complete their residency and at least one year of additional training before applying to the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (FRACP) for a fellowship.
Responsibilities of a Rheumatologist
A rheumatologist is a doctor who specializes in the detection and treatment of a broad range of musculoskeletal and systemic autoimmune conditions commonly called rheumatic diseases. Many rheumatic diseases have an affect on the joints, muscles and bones, and can cause pain, swelling and stiffness. Serious rheumatic diseases can lead to deformity or even be life threatening.
Autoimmune conditions result from the immune system causing inflammation in areas of the body when it is not needed, leading to damage (symptoms). These diseases may have a serious impact on the eyes, skin, nervous system and internal organs. Rheumatologists diagnose and manage joint disease much like orthopedists, but do not perform surgeries. Common diseases treated by rheumatologists include osteoarthritis, gout, rheumatoid arthritis, some types of back pain, tendinitis, and lupus.
Some rheumatologists are also involved in research to find the causes of and improved treatments for rheumatic diseases.