Pediatricians graduate from medical school and then take special courses solely in pediatrics for three or more years. This is called residency. Under supervised conditions, the pediatrician-in-training acquires the knowledge and skills necessary to treat a broad range of conditions, from the mildest childhood illnesses to the most serious diseases.
After completing residency training, the pediatrician is eligible to take a written exam given by the American Board of Pediatrics. Once she passes this exam, a certificate is issued, which you probably will see hanging on the pediatrician’s office wall. If you see the initials “FAAP” after a pediatrician’s name, it means she has passed her board exam and is now a full Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Only board-certified pediatricians can add the designation “FAAP” after their names, which means they have reached the highest status of membership in this professional organization.
Following their residency, some pediatricians elect an additional one to three years of training in a subspecialty, such as neonatology (the care of sick and premature newborns) or pediatric cardiology (the diagnosis and treatment of heart problems in children). These pediatric subspecialists generally are called on to consult with general pediatricians when a patient develops uncommon or special problems. If a subspecialist is ever needed to treat your child, your regular pediatrician will help you find the right one for your child’s problem.
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