A pulmonary specialist, or pulmonologist, is a physician that focuses on diseases of the lungs and bronchial tubes, which often involves care of the upper respiratory tract and heart as well. Pulmonology is a subspecialty of internal medicine, according to the American College of Physicians.
Pulmonologists complete approximately seven years of medical school and postgraduate training to become board certified in Internal Medicine. Then they study the respiratory system for two-to-three more years to be qualified as a pulmonary specialist, states the American College of Physicians. This specialized training qualifies pulmonologists to treat diseases or other conditions of the chest such as complicated infections, pneumonia, asthma, tuberculosis and emphysema.
Many chronic respiratory diseases or acute respiratory conditions may be treated by a general internist, according to the American College of Physicians. Pulmonologists are needed for the most complex pulmonary problems such as the pulmonary complications of AIDS, injury or complications of respiratory diagnostic and therapeutic procedures, in addition to the diseases of emphysema, tuberculosis and asthma.
While pulmonologists do not perform major surgery, they often perform procedures to procure samples of the lining of the chest wall or of the lung itself for analysis, states the American College of Physicians.