Shadowing a DoctorNovember 27, 2014
In addition to being a source of great discomfort and embarrassment, skin, hair and nail problems can also be the outward symptoms of some other more serious underlying conditions. As a dermatologist you would help with the diagnoses and treatments that aim to provide relief and help improve your patients’ quality of life. Dermatologists treat patients across all ages for a variety of conditions ranging from acne and chronic skin infections to serious ailments such as skin cancer.
Detailed job description of a dermatologist
A dermatologist’s work is very varied – from diagnosing mild skin conditions to prescribing treatment for more serious ailments. In some cases, laser treatment or surgery may be involved, for example removal of moles and warts or removal of skin after a diagnosis of skin cancer. Speciality options within dermatology are just as varied, from birthmark removal to Botox treatments and various cosmetic treatment procedures to treat the scars of burn patients or accident victims.
These specialists help in preventive health as well and screen people for pre-cancerous conditions. They also educate and advise patients on how to look after their skin and hair. For many patients, especially those who are disfigured or suffer from severely chronic skin conditions, a dermatologist is someone they rely on and trust to help them get better.
Education and training requirements
Dermatology is a highly competitive medical field, requiring several years of classroom education and clinical training starting with an undergraduate degree that includes premedical courses in chemistry, organic chemistry and biology. Biochemistry and math coursework is a mandatory requirement in some colleges.
Medical school is followed by residency, which can be very difficult to get into because of the intense competition. Three years of residency could be followed by fellowships, which could be for a year, sometimes two in the area that you choose to specialise in, whether it is lasers, cosmetic, surgery or dermatopathology. Dermatologists are required to complete continuous education and pass a board exam every ten years in order to retain their licence that allows them to practise.
Necessary skills and qualities
Because of the intense competition in this speciality, the drive to succeed, the ability to keep long work hours and the ability to work despite lack of sleep are essential. More often than not, skin conditions can have an unpleasant appearance and it is important to know for sure whether or not you would be able to overcome any aversion you may have to dealing with these conditions. Practical experience working in a dermatological setting is an excellent way to explore your inhibitions and abilities in this speciality. You can get the necessary first hand experience either through dermatologist shadowing or on a medical placement where you could get an opportunity to work in this field.
As a dermatologist you would work in clinics or the outpatient department of a hospital. Some professionals prefer to teach or work in research facilities. Dermatologists are in great demand because their treatment is very often life-changing for their patient and with training in subspeciality areas, career prospects can become even more attractive.