What is the proper type of doctor that my 13-year-old should see?
DR. BLUM’S ANSWER
Adolescence is a funny time. Adolescents are between childhood and adulthood and they need doctors who understand their issues. Pediatricians are all trained in adolescent medicine and are probably the proper physicians to see children of this age group. There are pediatricians who have taken extra fellowship training in adolescent medicine but there are very few of them and they tend to see adolescents with complicated issues such as eating disorders.
Adult general physicians are either Internal medicine specialists who will only see patients after age 18 or family physicians who will see patients of any age. There really is no reason to change from a pediatrician to a family physician during the teenage years but if you are already seeing a family physician it would be appropriate to continue with the family doctor during adolescence.
In our office we see many patients through college age. It is very common during school vacations to see 20 or 21 year olds in our office. If they come home from school and are sick, or they need a physical exam for school or job, they are often more comfortable coming to us than going to an adult doctor because they have often been seeing us since they were babies and know us very well.
First gynecologist visits should be when the female becomes sexually active or after age 18, whichever comes first.
Dr. Robert M. Blum is a pediatrician at Southfield Pediatrics in Bingham Farms and West Bloomfield. Email him questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.