Globally, infectious diseases rank as the second leading cause of death, over half of which are children under the age of 5. Infectious diseases are the third leading cause of death in the United States—170,000 each year—a figure that has nearly doubled since the early 1980s.
ID specialists are on the leading edge of some of the hottest topics in medicine today—from treatment for HIV/AIDS patients, to the growing threat posed by antibiotic resistance, to concerns about the appropriate evaluation and response to threats of bioterrorism.
This dynamic and evolving discipline offers exciting opportunities for physicians who enjoy helping others through problem-solving and medical detective work.
Academic Medicine: "The Process of Exploration and Discovery is Extremely Rewarding"
ID divisions are represented in every medical school in the United States and in many private hospitals. Medical faculty such as Dr. David Relman often enjoy a rewarding mixture of research, teaching, administration, and clinical practice.
Health Care Epidemiology: "There's Always Something New to Learn"
In U.S. hospitals alone, health care-associated infections account for an estimated 2 million infections, 90,000 deaths, and $4.5 billion in excess health care costs annually. ID specialists working in health care epidemiology, such as Dr. Arjun Srinivasan, are dedicated to improving the quality of patient care and the safety of health care workers.
Industry: "A Meaningful Difference in the Lives of Patients"
The demand for medical personnel in the pharmaceutical industry is projected to grow by more than 40 percent over the next decade. In order for drug manufacturers to develop or improve anti-infective agents, they need to employ infectious diseases specialists like Dr. Clarence Young.
Private Practice: "At Some Point, Every Specialty Needs Help From ID"
Dr. Larry Martinelli and other ID physicians in private clinical practice focus on patient care, expecting to see a broad spectrum of infectious diseases in outpatient and inpatient settings. ID specialists can play a major role in antibiotic formulary selection, hospital infection control and employee health, and local community infectious disease issues.
Public Health: "A Huge Opportunity in Public Health"
Many ID specialists choose to work for public health agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta or the National Institutes of Health (NIH) near Washington, DC. State and local health departments also employ ID specialists such as Dr. Gail Bolan, Chief of the STD Control Branch of the California DHS.
HIV/AIDS: "I Knew I Wanted to Help People With HIV"
More than a million Americans are living with HIV/AIDS, and there are 40,000 new infections every year. Globally, more than 40 million people are living with the disease. In the last 10 years, physicians with specialized training in infectious diseases like Dr. Kim Smith have helped to bring about dramatic progress in extending health and life for people with HIV.
What does it take to become an ID specialist?
Infectious disease certification requires two years of training beyond general internal medicine. See IDSA's Guide to Training Programs for specific curriculum information.
Where can I learn about pediatric infectious diseases?
The Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society (PIDS) has information about training programs in pediatric ID.
How is the job market for ID specialists?
An IDSA survey found a high degree of job satisfaction among the nation's 8,000 ID specialists; recent graduates had the highest job satisfaction. To take a look into the ID market, check out the ID/HIV Career Center.