Urologists, also known as genitourinary surgeons, are responsible for preventing, diagnosing, and treating disorders and ailments of the genitourinary system.
Urology is an area of medical specialization that focuses on the genitourinary system, which includes the urinary tract of both men and women (i.e. the kidneys, bladder, ureter and urethra) and—because it's intertwined with the urinary tract—the male reproductive system (i.e. the testes, prostate, vas deferens and penis).
Blockages of the urinary tract (e.g. kidney stones, urethral stricture), enlarged prostate, incontinence, and bladder problems are all common conditions treated by urologists.
What Education is Required to Become a Urologist?
All physicians in the U.S. must first attend a medical school accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME), then complete a residency program that is five or six years long. In most cases, the first two years of residency training are in general surgery and the last three focus specifically on urology. Depending on the institution, another year may be spent doing related basic or clinical research.
Urology Board Certification
After completing their training, urologists must seek certification from the American Board of Urology in order to provide direct patient care. In order to achieve certification, several components must be completed:
- Written Examination: Candidates must pass a written exam administered by the American Board of Urology
- Acquisition of an unrestricted medical license
- Assessment of clinical practice through a peer review of clinical logs
- Completing a 16-month practice requirement in a single community
- Oral Certifying Examination: Candidates must pass an oral examination that is also administered by the American Board of Urology. This is the final stage in the certification process and requires candidates to demonstrate that they are able to provide effective and efficient patient care.
Additional Training for Urologists
Once a urologist has been certified by the American Board of Urology, she is legally permitted to treat (without supervision) all patients with urological disorders. However, many urologists go on to complete fellowships, in which they receive training specific to one of the seven subspecialties: pediatric urology, renal transplantation, urologic oncology, male infertility, calculi (stones, including kidney stones), female urology, and neurology. Two of the subspecialties (pediatric urology and female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery) also require a certification exam.