The journey that one embarks upon to become a fully trained physician is not for the faint of heart. It requires you to consistently give your vital resources to an external boundless need that is much greater than the needs of your own small life. Paradoxically, as your energy is emitted in large concentric circles all around you, serving patients, your colleagues, family and friends who hunger to maintain a connection with you, your own horizon recedes. Your attention becomes focused on the essential—mastering knowledge, eating at least one meal daily, maintaining personal hygiene and a tenuous supply of clean laundry, keeping pets alive, staving off the squalor that threatens to overtake your apartment. If there are hours left in the day, you are sometimes too tired to use them, or maybe you try to be social, thereby giving more of your energy to others, or you descend into brute physicality at the gym. There are long stretches where it is difficult to locate time to merely sit, and think. Meanwhile, the days continue to elapse in slow motion, while the years pass in a blink. Suddenly, the end of residency is nigh, and for the first time in a decade, there is freedom to steer your own life—to choose where you want to live, the setting you want to practice in, and the area of dermatology that you would like to focus on.
Decisions of this caliber can be daunting for anyone, but more so for newly minted residency graduates who are navigating the career market for the first time. Fortunately, many of the distinguished faculty at the Skin of Color Update generously shared their advice for residents who are looking for their first job post-residency. Their pearls of wisdom can be boiled down to 5 main tenets for all budding dermatologists to keep in mind as they chart their post-residency career path during the coming months.
Be selfish for once!
“Remind yourself that you have earned the right to do what you want to do, and the right to pursue happiness and success. It is ok to be selfish and to “do you,” because after this long road that you’ve been on, you’ve earned it!” – Dr. Eliot Battle
“I’m a big proponent of doing exactly what you want to do. We are one of the few specialties where this is possible. If you want to do lasers all day, or if you want to do surgery all day, then you can opt for that kind of job. I think that residents sometimes have this feeling that “I should be doing x-y-z,” but I would say don’t feel that pressure. Choose what you want to do, not what you think you should be doing. Remember that we are so lucky to be in a specialty like dermatology—We have so many choices, so take advantage of that. Don’t lock yourself in. I work in multiple locations, and every location provides me with what I need. I love the university because I love that academic setting, I love cosmetics but I select exactly what I want to do in cosmetics—everything else I don’t want to do I refer to my partner. And I have a general dermatology practice that I like for other reasons too.” – Dr. Heather Woolery-LLoyd
Don’t sell yourself short
“There is a crying need for dermatologic care, whether it is medical or surgical or cosmetic. You are important to the practice that you are thinking about joining. Don’t be ridiculously greedy, but don’t sell yourself short either.” – Dr. Ted Rosen.
“Remember that YOU are in DEMAND!” – Dr. Wendy Roberts
Become an expert in an area of dermatology, and market yourself as such
“Find a way to distinguish yourself from the competition. When I finished residency, I was 42 years old. Every colleague of mine started a practice, but I chose to complete a 3 year fellowship because I knew the value of advanced education. If you want to separate yourself, then a fellowship is a great way to do so while advancing your learning.” – Dr. Eliot Battle
“Developing an area of expertise will immediately give you recognition both in the practice that you are joining, and in the local medical community.” – Dr. Ted Rosen
Get to know the culture of the practice before you join it
“Make sure the culture of the practice is what you are looking for. For example, some practices are very regulated, which is sometimes good because there are structures in place to help things run smoothly, but that might be too regimented for some people. Other practices might be very customer service oriented. So just make sure that the practice matches what you are looking for.” – Dr. Woolery-Lloyd
“You want to make sure you are joining a group that you can trust, and this can sometimes be hard to do. You have to talk to people who know the area, and who know the group that you are thinking about joining. If you are looking in a certain geographic area, you should seek out people that you know and trust who are already practicing in the area to see if you can find this out from them. Sometimes you can find this out during the course of the interview, but that it not always possible.” Dr. Henry Lim
Don’t always choose monetary compensation over professional development
“Choose a practice that is interested in your development, rather than your ability to generate income.” – Dr. Henry Lim
“Don’t be turned off of an opportunity if the salary or benefits aren’t what you want. If you really like the group, have a good feeling, think you’ll be in that practice for a long time, and seeing the potential for your own growth with their support, you should consider these things their own form of compensation. Know that you will get everything that you want during your career, but you may not get it at the outset.” – Dr. Wendy Roberts
Skin of Color Update Faculty who were quoted in this piece include:
Dr. Eliot Battle is co-chair of the Skin of Color Update, as well as CEO and Founder of Cultura Cosmetic Dermatology and Laser Center in Washington, DC.
Dr. Ted Rosen is Professor of Dermatology at Baylor College of Medicine, as well as Chief of Dermatology at the Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Houston, TX.
Dr. Wendy Roberts is a board certified dermatologist and dermatopathologist in private practice in Rancho Mirage, CA.
Dr. Heather Woolery-Lloyd is the Director of Ethnic Skin Care and voluntary Assistant Professor at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine Department of Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery.
Dr. Henry Lim is Professor and past chair of the Department of Dermatology at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, MI, where he also serves as Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs.
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