The skin is usually what people think of first when they hear about the integumentary system. In this module we learned about the different layers of the skin: the epidermis, the dermis, and the hypodermis. It may not surprise you that a doctor specializing in skin diseases is called a dermatologist.
Have you ever had a skin rash that did not respond to over-the-counter creams, or a mole that you were concerned about? Dermatologists help patients with these types of problems and more, on a daily basis. Dermatologists are medical doctors who specialize in diagnosing and treating skin disorders. Like all medical doctors, dermatologists earn a medical degree and then complete several years of residency training. In addition, dermatologists may then participate in a dermatology fellowship or complete additional, specialized training in a dermatology practice. If practicing in the United States, dermatologists must pass the United States Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE), become licensed in their state of practice, and be certified by the American Board of Dermatology.
Most dermatologists work in a medical office or private-practice setting. They diagnose skin conditions and rashes, prescribe oral and topical medications to treat skin conditions, and may perform simple procedures, such as mole or wart removal. In addition, they may refer patients to an oncologist if skin cancer that has metastasized is suspected. Recently, cosmetic procedures have also become a prominent part of dermatology. Botox injections, laser treatments, and collagen and dermal filler injections are popular among patients, hoping to reduce the appearance of skin aging.
Dermatology is a competitive specialty in medicine. Limited openings in dermatology residency programs mean that many medical students compete for a few select spots. Dermatology is an appealing specialty to many prospective doctors, because unlike emergency room physicians or surgeons, dermatologists generally do not have to work excessive hours or be “on-call” weekends and holidays. Moreover, the popularity of cosmetic dermatology has made it a growing field with many lucrative opportunities. It is not unusual for dermatology clinics to market themselves exclusively as cosmetic dermatology centers, and for dermatologists to specialize exclusively in these procedures.
Consider visiting a dermatologist to talk about why he or she entered the field and what the field of dermatology is like.