What is a Cardiologist?
Cardiologists, or simply a “heart doctor”, is a physician that specializes in the heart and blood vessels. They can help with things like heart failure, a heart attack, high blood pressure, or an irregular heartbeat.
A cardiologist diagnoses and treats heart conditions, while cardiothoracic surgeons perform heart-related surgeries. If you need heart surgery, your cardiologist would not perform the surgery. They do, however, perform different tests such as electrocardiograms and stress tests.
Unless your insurance company requires a referral (which is becoming less and less common), you can always look into scheduling an appointment with a specialist on your own. You do not have to wait for a referral or “permission” from your doctor to do this.
For someone to become a cardiologist, after medical school, they will do a residency in internal medicine, which usually lasts 3 years. After the residency, they take the American Board of Internal Medicine and then complete a 3 year cardiology fellowship. He or she will then obtain a license to practice in their state.