Many times you meet a doctor and the first question you ask is “what is your specialization?” Some say Iam a general practitioner (GP) and others claim to be specialists. You get a variety of confusing answers and you don’t get a good grasp of the qualifications and experience that each has acquired. As a lay person, the confusion is justifiable and in this article, we will help clear out the misconceptions.
Because we don’t have a well-structured system of medical education and training in Somaliland, we will use that of the USA and UK to better give clarifications on the path to becoming a medical doctor. In the USA, you do a 4 year undergraduate degree and then you spend four years in a medical school and eventually you enroll in a specialist training (residency program) for 3 to 7 years. In the UK, after finishing high school, you study medicine for 6 years at a university. U then do 2 years of foundation training in a hospital (sort of like a general residency) followed by a specialist training (residency program) of 3 to 7 years.
Bachelor of Medicine – Bachelor Surgery (MBBS) is an undergraduate, first professional degree awarded to a doctor after finishing medical school. MBBS courses are designed to train students in all fields of medicine. Doctor of Medicine (MD) is a Masters/Postgraduate degree in which a doctor is awarded after completion of the specialist training (residency). A candidate becomes eligible for MD only after successfully completing an MBBS degree. Some countries consider MD degree a professional doctorate for surgeons and physicians. Others consider it a research degree equal in value to a Ph. D. Therefore, a student completes an MD after the MBBS to obtain training on a specialization of choice. MD specializations include pediatrics, surgery, medicine, gynecology, obstetrics, ophthalmology, dentistry and the like.
The extensive training and grueling evaluation is expected to prepare students to take on the nuances and complexities of medicine. An MD or a specialist is better prepared to handle complex cases in his/her specialty and is more capable of providing a first-rate care to patients. An MBBS-degree holder is nevertheless able to manage common illnesses and if cases get complicated, they can refer patients to specialists that can provide more advanced care.
Given that a person finishes high school education at the age of 18, the minimum possible age at which someone can become a specialist with no interruptions in the middle is 29 – 33 years of age. The path to an MD is long and hard and anyone who is to pursue this eventually rewarding process should prepare him/herself for this journey.