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Medicine is a science that can be further divided into different medical specialties, such as dentistry, optometry, pharmacy and general medicine. A medical scientist is a person qualified both to practice a particular area of medicine as well as research possible causes, cures and preventative and public health measures that can help improve the medical field and quality of human life. Medical scientists frequently have additional qualifications to their medical degree, whether they are an M.D., D.M.D., O.D. or Psy.D. A Ph.D. is a common additional qualification for a medical scientist to hold.
Clinical Trial Research
The clinical trial is a fundamental part of medical research. Medical scientists perform clinical trial research for new drugs and treatment methods once they have been cleared for experimental use in humans. This generally takes place after extensive experimental trials on animal subjects, with very few exceptions. Clinical trial research involves comparing the effects of a drug or treatment method with the effect of a placebo -- any substance or treatment course that omits an active ingredient or experimental aspect -- on a group of subjects who do not know which version of the two treatments they are receiving. Clinical trials research is essential for research in psychology, internal medicine and psychopharmacology, among other medical disciplines.
Public Health Research
Some medical scientists specialize in the area of public health. Public health research encompasses epidemiology, preventive medicine and behavioral health. The aim of public health research is to find new methods and protocols to alleviate illness or adverse conditions on a large-scale basis, whether the research assesses the purity of drinking water in a region of a specific country, or is instead directed at reducing the incidence of suicide attempts in an urban center. The Master of Science in Public Health degree is a common qualifier for medical professionals who wish to specialize in public health research. Additional scientific degrees for public health specializations include the Doctor of Public Health, considered a professional degree, and the Doctor of Health Science, an academic degree.
Medical scientists can also specialize in genetics. Genetics research involves examining the human genome at the level of DNA. Its aim is ultimately to identify all the different genes in the human genome and their variations, which correspond to specific areas of human DNA. Because many diseases and conditions can be traced to genetic variations, genetics research can also be considered a public health initiative that aims to prevent the occurrence of genetic variations that can result in fatal conditions or a biological predisposition to inheritable diseases. Molecular biologists and biochemists are especially well-qualified to become geneticists, as their advanced knowledge of the interactions and conditions of living tissue at the molecular level aid administration and interpretation of research on DNA.
The human brain remains one of the biggest mysteries of modern medicine. Several regions and functions of the human brain have been identified, but doctors and scientists remain mostly baffled by the brain's immense complexity and intricate processes. This is where neuroscientists come in -- they are medical scientists who work to further reveal the processes and components of the brain, whether from a psychological (conscious) or nervous system (unconscious) standpoint. Neuroscience, a term interchangeable with neurobiology, is an interdisciplinary subject that incorporates aspects of chemistry, computer science, engineering, mathematics, medicine, philosophy, physics and psychology.
Pharmacology, and its subdivision psychopharmacology, is the medical science that examines drugs and their effects. Any substance with medicinal properties -- that which can treat or prevent disease or illness -- is a pharmaceutical. Pharmacology relies heavily on preclinical and clinical trials that use animal, and later human, subjects to examine the effects -- including benefits and risks -- of possible medicinal substances. Cell biologists and biochemists who also hold medical degrees are uniquely suited to study the discipline of pharmacology because of their advanced knowledge of receptors and metabolic pathways in the human body and brain.