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By Kate Willson
Dermatology is a versatile field which involves the treatment of hair, nails and skin conditions and diseases. A dermatologist is a medical doctor who specializes in skin care; both the pathology and physiology. But dermatology isn’t only concerned with the problems associated with skin. Teaching patients how to develop and maintain the health of skin and hair is also a vital part of what a dermatologist does.
Become a Dermatologist
A person who chooses to become a dermatologist can become a general practitioner in the specialty or decide to specialize in a certain area of dermatology; pediatrics, cosmetic, surgical. Choosing a specialty allows a dermatologist to develop an expertise in the area which interests them the most and provides patients with the quality of care they deserve for special needs or concerns.
The educational path to becoming a dermatologist is rigorous and challenging. It will require dedication, concentration and many, many hours of studying. Developing good study habits early is essential to your future educational success. Take every course, especially the more difficult ones, very seriously. A solid background in math and science will be important. In order to become a dermatologist, a person will need to complete a substantial number of courses in these areas with respectably high grades. Taking advanced placement courses will prepare students for the challenging courses that will need to be completed in college and beyond. Developing exceptional writing and research skills is exceedingly important for a future dermatologist. These skills are fundamental to the performance of standard tasks expected of professionals in the dermatology field. Certain colleges offer a specialized acceptance programs into their medical schools or accelerated programs for exceptional high school students. Temple University, for example, offers an early acceptance into their medical school to high school seniors who exhibit a strong academic history and graduate in the top five percent of their class. Students will not be considered unless their coursework was rigorous and challenging; the curriculum must have included AP coursework Students must receive an SAT score of at least 1350. Strong leadership skills and community activism and involvement are also expected. Temple University’s BA/MD program is one of many programs offered to students who are motivated and committed to a future in the field of medicine.
As a future dermatologist, expect to spend a significant part of the next decade in college. Choose a degree program in a science field related to the profession (dermatology) you intend to pursue. Biology would be a good selection. If the college you decide to attend offers a professional degree path program in pre-med, that would also be a good choice. Concentrate your course work in the direction of the sciences and mathematics. Since a degree in medicine is required, it is important that students build a solid foundation in these areas to ensure their success in the advanced degree work. Electives in the area of communications, business and psychology should be considered; each would be helpful for a professional who deals with the public on both a business and a personal level every day. During your senior year of undergraduate work, you will need to take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) in order to gain acceptance to medical school and apply to the medical schools you want to attend. The MCAT is offered several times throughout the year, from January to September. Registration begins generally in the month of November for the next years test dates, so plan accordingly. The registration fee is $225. The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) does offer a fee assistance program to candidates with extreme financial constraints. Preparing for the test can be done with practice tests which are available at the AAMC website: http://www.aamc.org/students/mcat/preparing/start.htm . The exam is multiple choice and assesses the individual’s abilities in the areas of problem solving, writing, critical thinking, and basic understanding of science concepts.
Acceptance into medical school can be a process. You will need to submit an application along with your scores for the MCAT. The medical colleges will review the applications and request a more detailed second application from students of interest to the institution. The second application will include an essay and you will also need to submit letters of recommendation. The medical colleges will likely schedule an interview. After the interview, individuals are notified of whether the medical school has decided to extend the invitation to attend. Once you have been accepted into medical school, you should expect to spend four years studying all aspects of medicine. During the first two years of medical school, students typically spend the majority of their time in academic study. Students will be attending lectures, sitting in classrooms and working in labs. The curriculum is focused on life sciences and chemistry. Expect to study the areas of physiology, histology, microbiology, pathology, biochemistry, human and gross anatomy. During the second year of medical, students are required to take the first part of the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). The exam evaluates the student’s ability to apply basic sciences to the practice of medicine. The second part of the exam will be administered during the senior year of medical school. The final section is given during the first year of residency training.
All prospective medical doctors are required to complete a residency training program before they will be considered a doctor. The American Board of Dermatology requires candidates to complete four years in a qualified training program. The first year of training must be completed in one of the following areas of medicine: emergency medicine, family medicine, general surgery, internal medicine, obstetrics & gynecology or pediatrics. The next three years of training should be in dermatology. Areas of training may include phototherapy, Mohs and cutaneous surgery, pediatric dermatology, pigmented lesions, laser and cosmetic surgery. Residents will work in inpatient and outpatient situations and must be in the direct care of the patients. Residents must also participate in basic science and/or clinical research during the residency training to qualify to take the dermatology exam. The exact requirements can be found at the website: http://www.abderm.org/residency.html .
Certification Exam and Continuing Education
The American Board of Dermatology requires prospective dermatologist to complete a three part exam to become certified. All training requirements as set forth by the ABDerm must be met in order to qualify to sit for the exam. The application for the exam must be filed online by March 1st of the year in which the candidate intends to take the exam. The board reviews the application and determines whether or not to approve the candidate. In addition to the application, annual evaluation reports from the individual’s training director will also be reviewed. The exam must be taken within two years of the date that eligibility is granted. The fee to take the exam is $2200.00 with other fees assessed for subspecialty certifications and reexamination. Continuing Education is an integral part of many fields and dermatology is no exception. The constant and consistent efforts of researchers provide new knowledge in the areas of health and technology on an intensely regular basis. Staying current on the newest available information is vital to the quality of care a dermatologist can provide to their patients; whether it is cosmetic or health related. Dermatologists, as with most medical professionals, are required to adhere to a Maintenance of Certification program of education and professional development. The MOC-D constantly evaluates the competency of the professional in four areas of assessment: Evidence of Professional Standing, Evidence of Commitment to Lifelong-Learning and Periodic Self-Assessment, Evidence of Cognitive Expertise and Evaluation of Performance in Practice.