Undergraduate Medical Education
Doctor of Medicine (M.D.)
What does a doctor do?
A doctor is a person who knows how to help you stay healthy and how to help you get better when you are sick or hurt. When you visit the doctor, he or she will give you a checkup, also called a physical examination, to make sure you are healthy and that you are growing and developing the way you should. The doctor will listen to your heart and lungs; check your eyes, ears, and throat; and make sure everything is working right on the inside and outside of your body.
If you are sick or in pain, the doctor will examine you to figure out what is wrong. Sometimes he or she will perform special tests to learn more about what is happening in your body. Then, he or she will make a treatment plan to help you get better.
Grown-ups visit the doctor, just like children do. Children often see a doctor called a pediatrician. A pediatrician is a special kind of doctor who takes care of children and works with parents to keep kids healthy.
What do doctors use?
The doctor uses a stethoscope (steth-o-scope) to listen to your heart and lungs and make sure they are healthy. He or she will place a small metal circle, called a bell, against your chest, at the spot where you can feel your heart beating. This special bell does not make noise. It allows the doctor to listen carefully to your heartbeat and your breathing. Sounds travel from the bell, through a rubber tube, and into the doctor’s ears. The doctor may move the bell around on your chest and ask you to take deep breaths while he or she listens to your lungs. Some kids ask the doctor to let them listen to their own heartbeat or the doctor’s heartbeat through the stethoscope.
A tongue depressor (di-press-er) is a smooth, wooden, flat stick—like a big Popsicle® stick. It helps the doctor keep your tongue out of the way so he or she can see inside your mouth and throat. While you stick out your tongue and say “aaahhh,” the doctor presses your tongue down with the stick and looks into your throat. Although tongue depressors usually do not taste bad, some doctors use grape- or cherry-flavored sticks.
The knee percussor (per-kuhs-er) looks like a little hammer. It has a small shiny handle with a rubber triangle at one end. The doctor uses this instrument to test your reflexes and make sure that the nerves that control your muscles are healthy.
While you sit up straight, he or she will tap a special place on your knee with the rubber triangle. The tap will cause your leg to kick straight out really fast. The doctor will test both of your legs. Sometimes, he or she will show kids how to use the knee percussor and let them try it.
Blood Pressure Cuff
The doctor or nurse checks your blood pressure using a blood pressure cuff. This tool measures how hard your heart is pumping blood through your body. The doctor or nurse wraps the cuff around your arm and connects the cuff to a small rubber pump that he or she holds in his or her hand. When the pump is squeezed, air goes into the cuff and makes it tighten on your arm. Even though the blood pressure gets a little tight, it will not hurt. You may be able to feel the pulse of your heart beating in your arm when the cuff is tight. The doctor or nurse listens with a stethoscope and watches the numbers on a special scale to get your blood pressure reading.
Medical students are encouraged to exercise their creativity and talents during medical school. Studies show that creative activities such as drawing, painting, music, and dancing sharpen critical thinking skills and encourages new ideas. Here are a few coloring pages!