Pulmonology is a medical specialty, and its practitioners diagnose and treat conditions of the respiratory system, including the lungs, bronchial tubes and chest areas affected by conditions of the airways. The diseases that a pulmonologist will treat would include asthma, tuberculosis, chest infections (both viral and bacteriological), emphysema, conditions common to smokers and particularly pneumonia.
A pulmonologist education will begin early, as should that of all medical professionals, with training in the sciences and math going back as early as high school (and it may be worth noting for high school students that a lack of aptitude in math and science translates to a lack of medical skill and hireability). The education of the specialist continues in college, where s/he should continue to study and work internships both in pre-medical school settings and in accredited medical schools after college work is completed.A vital component of this training is internship work, done under medical supervision in a medical facilityat least 4000 hours at minimum should be completed before the prospective candidate can consider himself or herself ready for the medical job market; the medical degree of MD or DO is pretty much a given in the circumstances.
The pulmonologist education does not really end, of courseafter licensure and certification as a trained specialist, the specialist is expected to maintain status by continuing professional development, up to 120 hours and more for some surgical specialties, in classes and career/intern work.
Since a pulmonology specialist is involved so much with respiratory pulmonologist diseases, they must gain experience in cardiothoracic techniques; they may, in the cases of some chest infections, be called upon to do minor surgeries related to the respiratory tract (although most major respiratory surgery is done by a thoracic or cardiothoracic surgeon).
The pulmonologist must specialize in the diagnosis of a number of conditions, including exposures to toxic elements (cigarette smoke is a hot diagnostic need at the moment, as is asbestos and exhaust fumesconditions common to garage mechanics and coal miners), exposure to influenzas (bird flu and swine flu to name two recent epidemics), hereditary diseases (including cystic fibrosis, the thick viscosity that infects the lungs of patients of any age with the hereditary propensity).
The pulmonologist diseases specialist will also supervise testing and diagnostic procedures including arterial blood gas measurements (which determines both PH and carbon dioxide content in the blood, an indication of a respiratory problem), X-rays (specializing in chest and bronchial tubes, CT scans, Bronchoscopies for determining the seriousness of pneumonia and bronchial infections, and finally positron emission tomography (especially useful in determining the exact presence, in a three-dimensional image, of evidence of lung cancer).
Finally, the pulmonology specialist must be well trained in pharmacopeia; he must have a working knowledge of all the current treatments, drugs and methodologies. There are two forms of medication that a pulmonology specialist administers: one is in the form of inhalers (including steroids and bronchial sprayers), the other oral administration (as in antibiotics for pulmonary infection). Inhalers are commonly used in asthma and chronic pulmonary inflammations; oral drugs are generally healing media rather than preventative. In addition, the pulmonology specialist will need training in rehabilitative techniques including oxygen therapy, as well as administering a regimen for lifestyle, diet and exercise for the patient with pulmonary conditions that are life-damaging or threatening.
The most frequent kind of diagnosis for a pulmonology specialist, and the one for which he should be best prepared, is probably restrictive lung diseases; these are characterized by reduced volume in the lungs (often an indication of pleurisy or lung cancer), and can result in inflammation and scarring of the lungs, or damage to the chest wall or respiratory muscles. The most grave of the diseases diagnosed from a restrictive lung disorder, lung cancer, requires not only the pulmonologist but also the services of a good oncologist, to assist in diagnosis and treatment of the cancer.