What is a dermatologist?
A dermatologist is a physician who specializes in skin, hair, and nail care and disorders. This involves preventative care, clinic visits, surgery, laser therapies, cosmetics, and academics. Fellowships include Mohs surgery, dermatopathology, and pediatrics. Telederm is an emerging field.
Why did I choose dermatology?
Dermatology offers a wide variety. There are bread and butter visits such as acne or psoriasis, opportunities to educate in preventative medicine, surgery for benign and malignant neoplasms, laser treatments to improve scars, vascular lesions, rosacea, etc, and cosmetics. There are patients of all ages with the unique opportunity to make a difference that patients can see when they look in the mirror. Cutaneous manifestations of systemic diseases allows for a non-invasive way to assist in complex diagnoses. Not to mention the excellent lifestyle with rare to no call!
A day in the life of a dermatology resident
Each program will be different, but all programs function somewhat the same. Dermatology is very academic and there is a lot of reading and studying outside of work hours. For me, I get to work around 5:30am to study and prep for the day. We do academics from 7-9. Clinic visits are every 25 minutes from 9-12 and again from 1-4. Afternoons are spent finishing notes, calling back results, and studying. One half day a week is set aside for surgery and another half day for more complicated patients, cosmetics, etc.
Approximately, every 6 weeks you rotate on another rotation that includes extra time in lasers, pediatrics, dermatopathology, Mohs, inpatient, or rheumatology. Dermatopathology involves learning to read slides and recognize disease processes under the microscope. Mohs is a specialized tissue-sparing skin cancer surgery. Though there are few derm emergencies, there are severe conditions that require hospitalization, and there are derm conditions that present in a hospitalized patient which may not be recognized by the primary team.
How to become a dermatology resident
As dermatology can be competitive, it is important to work hard and achieve excellent grades and high scores on USMLE or COMLEX (MD and DO board exams). Research definitely helps but is not an absolute requirement. Even case reports and publications can go a long way. Networking and getting strong letters of recommendation can go a long way. Prior to visiting a program, review the AAD online curriculum to get a foundation of the basics. When you rotate with a program, be as helpful as possible, friendly, and ask insightful questions. Show an interest and eagerness to learn.
How long does it take to become a fully licensed dermatologist?
To become a fully licensed dermatologist you must complete a bachelor degree, 4 years of medical school, a transitional intern year, and 3 years of a dermatology residency. Most fellowships are 1 year, but not everyone completes one. I personally plan to practice general dermatology.