A child receives treatment from a pediatrician.
Students with a passion for improving children’s health will find fulfilling medical careers in pediatrics.
After medical students begin residency training in the overall specialty of pediatrics, they may choose to become generalist pediatricians or pediatric medical subspecialists. Each pediatric subspecialty addresses specific medical issues and requires a particular set of talents and interests.
Below is an overview of some common pediatric subspecialties.
Neonatologists care for some of the most delicate patients in the medical field: infants. These physicians save the lives of infants born prematurely or with birth defects, infections, and a host of other complications. They monitor and treat infants in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
Neonatologists also provide assistance during high-risk deliveries and help medical teams mitigate any potentially threatening issues and anomalies detected during pregnancies.
Pediatric cardiologists treat the extensive suite of complex conditions that can affect children’s hearts, including defects present at birth, acquired heart diseases (like Kawasaki's), and rheumatic heart disease. These physicians see patients of all ages, from babies to young adults.
Their work also informs the prevention of cardiac diseases linked to childhood obesity.
According to the American Cancer Society, more than 80% of child cancer patients survive for five or more years. The work of pediatric hematologist/oncologists plays a critical role in this inspiring statistic. Responsible for diagnosing and treating childhood cancer, pediatric hematologist/oncologists save and improve the lives of their patients.
Due to the long-term nature of cancer treatment, pediatric hematologist/oncologists often form strong bonds with their patients and remain part of their lives after treatment.
While adult surgeons focus primarily on one area of expertise, pediatric surgeons perform a variety of procedures on patients of all ages. To meet the constantly changing demands of their practice, pediatric surgeons receive extensive training to gain fluency in multiple procedures that incorporate a range of biological systems and surgical techniques. These surgeons repair birth defects, mend serious wounds, perform transplantations, and more.
Pediatric emergency physicians see children in need of urgent care as a result of any cause or condition imaginable, including seizures, accidents, poisonings, and more.
In just one day, these agile practitioners need to jump from condition to condition, and they rarely know what to expect next. They typically work in emergency room settings and have access to extensive resources for treating any issue.
Pediatric infectious disease specialists care for children sick from bacterial, viral, and fungal infections. Young and vulnerable, children sometimes suffer severe complications from well-known illnesses, including measles, rubella, and chickenpox. Pediatric infectious disease specialists pay careful attention to symptoms to identify and treat a range of illnesses and avoid potentially devastating complications.
Pediatric palliative care helps children and families manage the emotional and physical demands of a life-threatening illness. Palliative care begins at diagnosis to ensure the highest quality of life throughout treatment. If an illness does prove terminal, then palliative care strives to eliminate pain and increase comfort for children suffering from an incurable illness, genetic disorder, or similarly progressive disease.
Pediatric pulmonologists solve medial problems related to the respiratory system. These physicians see children of all ages suffering from chronic asthma, cystic fibrosis, apnea, and a range of other diseases that affect the lungs and significantly reduce a child’s quality of life.
Transitioning from “child” to “adult” can be both physically and emotionally challenging for adolescents. That’s why adolescent medicine specialists train to address the range of issues particular to growing patients with rapidly changing bodies, usually those in the 12-25 age range. These physicians frequently deal with concerns related to sexual health, eating disorders, sports medicine, chronic fatigue, and more.
Each pediatric subspecialty plays a unique role in improving pediatric health outcomes—and inspiring hope for a happy, healthy future for every child.
By Kyleigh Roessner