> Career Development

Real Advice from Joel Schlessinger MD, FAAD, FAACS Part 2

How can new dermatologists get involved in clinical research?

Becoming involved in clinical research is both exciting and potentially concerning as it all depends on the support team you will have and the set up (both physical and administrative) of your site.  The benefits can be good in both financially and intellectually, but the risks are also significant.

When starting a clinical research site there are many factors to consider, but the most obvious is whether you are interested in research.  The sort of research available to most dermatology clinics could range from acne to psoriasis trials.  While the compensation varies from minimal to very good, the time involvement and time away from the practice to start the trials can also be an issue.

Most clinical trials involve numerous visits by patients with laborious entry of data and need for elaborate assessments.  There are also many visits by an outside clinical research monitor which are usually necessary to have a staff member or yourself present at for hours at a time.  Additionally, in the worst of scenarios, the FDA may pay a visit at any time and that could mean days of involvement with no compensation and potentially catastrophic consequences for both your clinic and license (and, of course, ability to perform future trials) if there are issues.

Clearly, clinical research is something to consider if you are interested in this sort of work, but the costs of starting up a site can range from $100,000 to $200,000 including research staff, equipment, office space, record keeping equipment and your own loss of patient care time.  Additionally, there are benefits that range from compensation to the general sense of satisfaction that comes from furthering our field’s success.  Ultimately, the decision is one that requires serious and thoughtful consideration with a resolve that is both personal and financial.

What is the best way for dermatologists to get educated on new products and treatments?

When a resident graduates and first practices dermatology on their own, whether in a solo or group practice, the limitations of their knowledge are fairly minimal in comparison with the gaps that occur as they progressively ‘mature’ after residency. These gaps grow as new knowledge is disseminated or as new procedures are developed. Some of these newer concepts may not have been available to them as a resident, while others are clearly delineated or amplified in a teaching program or fellowship. The best way to fill in these ‘cracks’ varies based on the learning styles that best integrate with your preferences.

When I first came out of residency, the electronic world was nascent. Since then, Internet and long distance learning have evolved and opportunities abound outside of conferences. The question remains as to whether these solitary educational sessions attain the level of proficiency that is necessary to treat patients on these procedures. Medicine isn’t the same thing as assembling an IKEA bookshelf!

For this reason, it is important to seek out opportunities that offer a fresh and nuanced view of new information or procedures. Clearly, we all encounter bias in our everyday exposures in medicine, but it is particularly evident in some of the marketed meetings or ‘free’ educational materials. Therefore, it is essential to make your time count and find the best option for you that is going to be interesting and effective.

When I started Cosmetic Surgery Forum (www.CosmeticSurgeryForum.com) in 2010, my goal was to offer a conference that had the best discussions and was reminiscent of the milieu of medical school or residency. That meant bringing in a collection of dermatologists, plastic surgeons and facial plastic/oculoplastic teachers as well as an audience that was of the same caliber of medical school. It’s important to consider the audience in this equation as they really can make or break a conference based on their level of interaction or ability to add to the discussion. Many conferences go for numbers of bodies, without any consideration to their level of education or appropriateness in the ‘room’.

I feel we have achieved this and have a dedicated faculty as well as an audience that enjoys the camaraderie and flow of a spontaneous conference. Additionally, the focus on younger individuals (residents and new physicians) as well as seasoned practitioners allows for the easy and collegial atmosphere we learn from best.

Additionally, there are opportunities for additional interactions on venues such as ShoutMD. A multispecialty chat room run by Alphaeon Corporation and Dermchat/RxDerm, an unbiased listserve group. These, in addition to the many magazines and subscriptions, are where I obtain the most valuable post-graduate education I encounter.

Good luck on your educational pursuits and feel free to reach out if you have any questions at [email protected]!