What made you decide to pursue a career in dermatology?
My path to dermatology (and medicine in general) was not direct. Shortly after my parents immigrated to this country, I was born in North Carolina. We grew up in humble circumstances. We did not have doctors in our family, nor did we see doctors due to a lack of access to medical care. Growing up, I knew I wanted to help people but did not know in what way. Finally I decided to pursue a career in medicine. Arriving to medical school, I was fascinated by every specialty I learned about and worked in. Similar to a college freshman, I was undecided on my specialty choice. I loved each field of medicine and surgery I had the privilege of working in during my clerkships – I wanted to do it all! During my last rotation as a 3rd year medical student, I happened to work with an intern, Dr. Kelly Nelson, who was about to start her residency training in dermatology. She invited me to work with her in clinic. Immediately, I was struck by the depth and breadth of dermatological care. Taking care of patients of all ages (medically and surgically), developing longitudinal relationships with them, and the visual aspects and challenges of the specialty made dermatology the perfect fit for me.
How do you acquire new patients?
A documented shortage of dermatologists nationwide exists with wait times in excess of weeks to months in many clinics. I was fortunate enough to become busy right away in my clinical practice. Many of my new patients are referrals from primary care providers, other medical and surgical specialists, or patients with whom I have worked. As a physician one of the best compliments you can receive is a referral from a patient who sends a friend, family member, or colleague to you. Truly humbling. I also receive quite a few new patients for a second opinion regarding their dermatologic condition.
How do you maintain a good rapport with your patients?
Communication is fundamental to every relationship, especially the doctor-patient relationship. Creating an environment for open dialogue will help patients achieve their best outcomes. Patients will be able to share more information with you, feel more comfortable asking questions, and feel like they have greater involvement in their care. From making sure all the patient’s concerns are addressed to proper counseling and education, I try to communicate a patient’s condition and treatment in a way that is meaningful and understandable to them and anticipate their needs. In addition, I let patients know to contact me if there are any problems or if any further questions arise. I try to convey to the patient that we are in this together and I am here to help them on their medical journey. I also like to present patients with options and ask their preferences for treatment when there is no one right answer; this allows them to feel more engaged in the medical decision-making process.
What accomplishments are you most proud of in your career?
My residents, for sure! As an educator and program director, it is an honor working with medical students, fellows, and residents and taking a small part in their development as a physician. Seeing my residents grow in their confidence and abilities to take care of patients, teach, and lead is my greatest reward. I am so proud to see all the wonderful things that they accomplish in their personal life and their own careers!
What advice do you have for new dermatologists?
We are so fortunate to be able to do what we do. Think about the ideas and ideals you had when applying to medical school. Think about the ideas and ideals you had when applying for dermatology. Has anything changed? Why? As you begin your own career, I encourage you to make yourself visible beyond the walls of your clinic. Use your talents. Volunteer. Teach. Lead. Contribute to the research community. Give back in any way you can. You have so much to offer not only to your patients, but to your local community and medical community. In this way, your daily job truly becomes a lifelong career and you help ensure the survival of our specialty.