Ask the Experts

What is a hematologist?

A hematologist is a specialist in hematology, the science or study of blood, blood-forming organs and blood diseases. The medical aspect of hematology is concerned with the treatment of blood disorders and malignancies, including types of hemophilia, leukemia, lymphoma and sickle-cell anemia. Hematology is a branch of internal medicine that deals with the physiology, pathology, etiology, diagnosis, treatment, prognosis and prevention of blood-related disorders.

Hematologists work in a variety of environments, including blood banks, pathology laboratories and private clinics. Specialists in this branch of medicine can also choose to focus on specific topics within the field of hematology, such as lymphatic organs and bone marrow and may diagnose blood count irregularities or platelet irregularities. They are able to treat organs that are fed by blood cells, including the lymph nodes, spleen, thymus and lymphoid tissue.

The work of hematologists is supported by laboratory technicians who examine samples of blood and blood forming tissue, which provide information about abnormalities and issues identified in laboratory screening. A hematologist may also specialize in genetic testing if he or she focuses on inherited blood conditions. As part of a patient care team, hematologists often work with other doctors to provide complete services to patients with complex conditions.

Not only does a hematologist focus on the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of blood and bone marrow diseases, but also on immunologic, hemostatic (blood clotting) and vascular systems.

Specialty areas

Hematologists can work in varied settings. Those in blood banks work to keep blood supplies safe and accessible, and may supervise labs that analyze blood samples and provide advice to organizations that provide advocacy services for patients with genetic blood disorders. These hematologists may also work with government agencies on education campaigns designed to inform the public of disorders like anemia.

Typically, hematologists working in laboratories are referred to as hematopathologists. These physicians work closely with hematologists to diagnose hematological diseases. Working together, the hematologist and hematopathologist formulate a diagnosis and deliver appropriate therapy when needed.

As part of a patient care team, hematologists work closely with surgeons, radiation oncologists and other specialists to help patients understand their diagnosis, develop individualized treatment plans, coordinate aspects of care and provide surgical, chemotherapeutic and immunotherapeutic treatment.

Areas of study include:

  • Bleeding disorders such as hemophilia and idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura
  • Hematologic malignancies, such as leukemia and lymphoma
  • Hemaglobinopathies
  • Blood transfusions
  • Bone marrow and stem cell transplantation

Other disorders which may be treated by a hematologist include arterial thromboembolism, deep-vein thrombosis and neutropenia.

Education

Becoming a hematologist requires 7 or more years of medical school and postgraduate training, before earning a board certification in internal medicine.

In addition, at least 2 years of specialty training, studying a range of hematological disorders, are required.

Hematologists can later gain further certification in a subspecialty.

Additional information can be found by searching the following websites:

www.hematology.org

www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/

www.ehaweb.org/

www.abim.org/specialty/hematology.aspx

https://www.acponline.org/patients_families/about_internal_medicine/subspecialties/hematology/


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