Clinical Review

How I Became a Derm Guru (And How You Can, Too)

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And a funny thing happened: The more I read, the more diagnoses I recognized on my patients. My colleagues and the clinic schedulers took note of this and began sending me their problem cases. Even the derm department, beleaguered as usual by huge backlogs of patients, started sending patients to me. By 1985, even though I was in the internal medicine department, I had transitioned to doing derm fulltime. And that’s what I’ve been doing since.

Around 1992, I discovered that I was one of 6 dermatology PAs in this country. Last time I checked, our numbers were approaching 4,000. So, yes, derm is indeed difficult, but rocket science it isn’t.

Being the pedantic sort that I am, and finding that whole experience so enlightening, I resolved to make it my mission to foster the use of PAs in dermatology—part of which involves the education of those PAs, by means of taking students but also by writing articles (several hundred at last count) and lecturing at conferences and at PA programs. Nearing retirement, I only practice two days a week, but I write and publish at least 5 clinical articles a month, all of which are based on real cases: my cases, using my photos, doing new research on each case. This keeps my knowledge fresh and my 75-year-old mind sharp, helps ward off burnout, and, most importantly, saves lives while reducing patient discomfort.

What follows are 10 dermatology pearls that I have gleaned along the way. My apologies to my former students and attendees at my lectures who’ve heard all this before:

1 If the treatment for your diagnosis isn’t working, consider another diagnosis. Here’s an example (Figure 1): A man in his 50s was sent to dermatology for psoriasis that wasn’t responding to a biologic. Was it really psoriasis? A KOH prep quickly showed it to be tinea corporis, which cleared completely with a month’s worth of oral terbinafine (250 mg qid).

Dermatophytosis misdiagnosed as psoriasis

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