6 Trending Medical Specialties: Have You Considered Them?


The AAMC highlighted five emerging specialties for new physicians. Let’s take a closer look at these specialties and other medical career paths rising in popularity.


1 | Longevity Specialist

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First, we’re adding longevity specialists, also known as anti-aging physicians or longevity doctors, to the AAMC’s list of emerging specialties.

They specialize in longevity medicine, which is all about helping patients maintain or enhance their health and quality of life as they age, as well as preventing or minimizing the effects of age-related diseases.

This is often referred to as one’s healthspan, as lifespan does not take into account how many healthy and active years a person has. There’s a big difference between living an active life and being bedridden. If you’re constantly ill and lack human connection for the final 10 to 15 years of your life, what does it matter if you live until 90? Check out my video on the value of healthspan on the Kevin Jubbal, MD YouTube channel.

Longevity specialists are relatively new on the scene, so the path to becoming one is not as clear. There are many certifications you can take online, but currently, you do not necessarily require a Ph.D. or an MD to become a longevity specialist.

For example, arguably the most well known longevity specialist is Dr. David Sinclair. While he has a Ph.D. in molecular genetics and is a professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School, he is not a medical doctor. Many consider Dr. Andrew Huberman, who I absolutely love, to be a longevity specialist, but he also does not have an MD. He has a Ph.D. in neuroscience and is an associate professor of neurobiology at Stanford.

Dr. Peter Attia, who I admire greatly, is a rising figure in longevity medicine who acquired his MD and then dropped out of his general surgery residency before transitioning to consulting with McKinsey and ultimately starting his own practice as a longevity specialist.

Compensation is highly variable and based on both the specialist’s level of training and popularity in the media. The most prominent people in the field are making several millions of dollars in profit a year. How much you make depends on your qualifications and public influence.


2 | Medical Virtualist

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Second are medical virtualists.

Virtual medicine, or telehealth, has been around since the 1950s but has gained popularity due to advances in technology and, more recently, the COVID-19 pandemic.

While some are pushing for medical virtualist to become its own specialty, it makes more sense for virtualists to be a practice type of a specialty. For example, some psychiatrists work inpatient in the hospital, some work outpatient in the clinic, some work remotely using telemedicine, and others practice in a combination of these settings.

Just as academic psychiatrists may see more complex and severe presenting pathologies versus community psychiatrists, telehealth psychiatrists would find a certain niche of pathologies that are more common.

While many specialties can easily transition to telehealth, some are more conducive than others. Historically, the most popular specialties include telepsychiatry and teleradiology. Procedural specialties, or those requiring a more involved physical exam, will face more limitations.

Many physicians are now conducting telehealth visits for their patients, especially those who are more stable and only need semi-regular follow-ups.

With the increasing demand for telehealth, some argue it’s time to stop making telehealth a requirement for all physicians and instead train certain physicians to only do telehealth, becoming a virtualist. In fact, some medical schools, like Weill Cornell Medicine, already offer telehealth courses to their medical students.

Currently, the easiest path to becoming a virtualist is to pursue a career in psychiatry or radiology, which have clearer remote job opportunities. To become a psychiatrist, you must complete four years of residency training. To become a radiologist, you must complete a five year residency.

Compensation varies considerably depending on the specialty and the scope of the practice. Radiologists earn about $480,000 a year and psychiatrists earn around $310,000.


3 | Nocturnist

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The third emerging medical path is nocturnist.

Similar to hospitalists, nocturnists practice hospital medicine but work overnight shifts. They’re responsible for admitting patients who come in at night and managing them until the morning.

Like hospitalists, nocturnists work weekly shifts, meaning they’ll work seven days and then have the next seven off.

As a nocturnist, you’ll have more autonomy than your daytime colleagues since there’s less specialist support at night. However, this can make work more challenging, as you have to decide whether to proceed without support or wake the specialist on call.

Nocturnists also don’t have to deal with as many administrative tasks, such as calling insurance agencies and planning for patient discharges.

To become a nocturnist, you must finish your residency training in internal medicine or family medicine, both of which last three years. Check out our So You Want to Be episodes on becoming an internal medicine or family medicine doctor. Linked below.

In terms of compensation, nocturnists earn $260,000 on average and are usually paid 10-15% more than their hospitalist counterparts due to the less desirable working hours.


4 | Cancer Immunologist

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The fourth specialty is cancer immunology.

Cancer immunology is the science of using the body’s immune response to combat various types of cancer. It is a rapidly growing field of research that could potentially improve outcomes for certain kinds of cancer, such as kidney cancer and melanoma.

However, the drugs used in cancer immunology currently cause significant side effects, such as the onset of autoimmune diseases like arthritis, which also require medical attention.

As a cancer immunologist, you can pursue a few different career paths. You could become a researcher focused on the body’s responses to immunotherapies, or a clinician who focuses on treating patients with immunotherapies.

To become a researcher, you can apply to cancer immunology programs either as a predoctoral trainee, after which you will receive your Ph.D., or as a postdoctoral trainee who already has an MD or Ph.D.

Training takes around two years. The average yearly salary for a cancer immunology researcher is around $100,000.

After finishing your training, you can continue doing your research in an academic setting, or you could work at a pharmaceutical company that’s developing these new immunotherapies.

If you’re interested in treating patients, you can become a cancer immunologist after finishing a rheumatology or allergy/immunology fellowship.

To become a rheumatologist, you must complete three years of internal medicine residency, followed by two years of rheumatology.

To become an immunologist, you must complete three years of internal medicine or pediatrics residency, followed by two years of fellowship training. Alternatively, you could pursue a three-year combined rheumatology and immunology fellowship.

We’ve covered how to become a rheumatologist and how to become an allergy/immunologist in our So You Want to Be series.

In terms of compensation, the average salary for clinicians is much higher, with rheumatologists and immunologists both earning around $280,000 a year.


5 | Clinical Informatician

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Fifth, we have clinical informaticians.

Clinical informatics, also known as health or biomedical informatics, is an interdisciplinary field that combines medicine, information science, and computer science.

The main role of informatics in healthcare is to optimize patient data for physicians and patients to help guide clinical practice.

As a clinical informatician, you’ll act as a middleman between clinicians and IT companies working to optimize these databases. You can also take on more administrative roles, like chief medical information officer or chief health information officer, where you will supervise the IT team.

Some opportunities are fully remote, whereas others require you to maintain some clinical duties. You might not see patients at all and instead work for a startup or advise a number of companies on health-related products, such as wearable tech or supplements.

There are two paths to becoming a board-certified clinical informatician. The first is the practice pathway and the other is the fellowship pathway.

There are two possible tracks in the practice pathway. The first requires you to practice for three years in a clinical informatics setting, where you will spend most of your time practicing medicine with some clinical informatics responsibility. The second is pursuing a master’s or Ph.D. in informatics.

The fellowship pathway is much simpler. After finishing your primary residency, you can pursue a two-year fellowship.

The average salary for a chief medical information officer is between $250,000 and $400,000 per year depending on the source.


6 | Lifestyle Medicine Specialist

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Last at number 6 is lifestyle medicine, which focuses on preventing, treating, and reversing chronic diseases like hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. In addition to prescribing medications for these diseases, lifestyle medicine physicians are trained to apply evidence-based lifestyle modifications, such as dietary changes, physical activity regimens, and stress management plans, to reverse or manage these illnesses.

Unfortunately, American culture expects a magic pill can fix any health concern. But more and more doctors are emphasizing how changes to a patient’s lifestyle can both be an effective form of treatment and prevent illnesses before they occur.

Recently, the American Board of Lifestyle Medicine began offering certification in the field of lifestyle medicine.

As a lifestyle medicine specialist, you will help your patients see the importance and value of making positive lifestyle changes that will enhance their health and wellbeing rather than only treating their illnesses with medication. A suggested management plan might include dietary changes or plans for physical activity.

You can also do consultations over telehealth, guiding patients towards healthier lifestyles.

There are two ways to become a board-certified lifestyle medicine physician. The first is through the experiential pathway, which is for practicing attending physicians, and the second is through the educational pathway, which is for residents. In both tracks, you first need to complete prerequisite online training, in-person training, and pass the exam.

In the experiential pathway, you must be board-certified in any specialty that’s recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties or the American Osteopathic Association. You must also have worked as an attending physician for at least two years.

In the educational pathway, you can complete the lifestyle medicine residency curriculum during your training and take the exam after finishing residency. However, you can only be certified after passing your primary specialty board exam.

In terms of compensation, your salary will vary depending on your primary practice.


Choosing the Specialty for You

The medical industry is constantly evolving, which means new pathways and career options will continue to evolve along with it. Note that some of the emerging career paths we covered are quite new, meaning the training trajectory and compensation are not yet well-defined.

If you enjoyed this article, follow our So You Want to Be series, which takes a deep dive into how to pursue various medical specialties.


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