1. What made you decide to pursue a career in dermatology?
I really enjoy talking with my patients. I love to hear about their jobs, families, and their various stories. I also really enjoy procedural work. I find doing procedures a fantastic outlet for my anal tendencies. You get to be as precise and detail-oriented as you want to be. Dermatology was a good marriage between the chance to have long relationships with my patients, yet work with my hands. As I learned more about the field, I realized that there are many different types of dermatologists. You really can find your passion within the specialty. Or, if you enjoy it all, like I do, you can do it all. And the skin is obviously the most fascinating organ.
2. What is a typical day like for you?
I arrive at my office (with a big cup of coffee) at 7:30 a.m. and start seeing patients at 7:45 a.m. I see patients of every age. I continue to see patients every 15 minutes, with my last patient of the morning scheduled at 12:30 p.m. Surgeries and procedures are scheduled throughout my day, so those appointments may be longer. I make phone calls and finish all my morning charts during my lunch hour, and then pick up seeing patients at 1:30 to 4 p.m. I try to be as efficient as possible so most of my notes are complete, or almost complete, by the end of my clinic day. Then I make phone calls or coordinate with other physicians for an hour or so, and then head home by 4:45. I alternate working two or two-and-a-half days a week (so 10 days a month), and I try to accomplish as much as I can at work so I am not working too much at home on my days off.
3. How compatible is dermatology with raising a family, and how is this different for women and men?
I have found dermatology to be a fantastic field for work/life balance. For starters, regardless of where you live, you will always find a job. This is actually a huge thing! The actual practice of dermatology within the field is so varied. You can find dermatologists who work anywhere from one to six days a week, or from four to 16 hours a day. I am very happy that my current position allows me to work part-time. Because there is so often the opportunity to find a job with a flexible schedule, dermatology is a fairly progressive field for work/life balance.
4. What are the most important qualities or character traits for a person in dermatology?
The happiest dermatologists are the ones who really enjoy skin and disorders of the skin. I had an attending who gave me advice I will never forget: the easiest job in the world is to be a bad dermatologist. A person in dermatology should be intellectually curious and interested in continuously improving their knowledge base. I also think from a practical standpoint that patience is also crucial. Clinics are often long, patients may be complicated and/or demanding, paperwork is dreadful. Keep your patience (and good humor).
5. What accomplishment are you most proud of in your career?
Above any award or accolade, I am the proudest every time I diagnose melanoma. Finding and removing a melanoma from a patient means I’m doing my job. As a general dermatologist, many of the melanomas I diagnose are stage Ia or Ib. Identifying correctly the pigmented lesions that are melanoma is the most rewarding part of my job.