There are many different types of medical doctors, such as urologists, neurologists, primary care physicians and gynecologists. Other professionals who possess doctorate degrees, such as college professors and dentists, may also be referred to as doctors.
Family practice and internal medicine physicians typically offer primary care, while specialists are doctors who practice medicine within various specialties. Pulmonologists specialize in lung disease, pediatricians focus on preventative and acute care for children, and opthalmologists provide vision care. Other specialists include endocrinologists, who specialize in treating diabetes, and hepatologists, who treat liver disease.
Within medical disciplines, doctors may possess two different medical distinctions: M.D., which is a doctor of medicine, or D.O., which is a doctor of osteopathy. Both are licensed to practice medicine. Osteopathy is a practice of medicine that aims to treat disease through the manipulation of bones, joints and muscles.
Other doctorate degrees include Doctor of Philosophy, Doctor of Education, Doctor of Ministry and Doctor of Nursing Practice. Dentists can obtain either a D.D.S or D.M.D, but attend dental school, as opposed to medical school like physicians.
With some insurance companies, primary care physicians serve as gatekeepers who must authorize patients' visits before they can see a specialist. PCPs are essential for continuity of care, while specialists are necessary in the event that a patient has chronic problems in a specific area.