What is a Dermatologist?
What do dermatologists do?
Trained dermatologists usually combine several activities - seeing patients in public hospital clinics and/or in private practices, acting as consultants to other specialists, teaching, and delving into clinical or basic research.
Dermatologists must have expertise in basic sciences including microbiology, pathology, biochemistry, physics, physiology, and endocrinology. They must be familiar with all the other medical specialities because of their consultant work and because skin diseases are often associated with internal conditions.
Dermatologists perform skin surgery in many situations:
- To prevent or provide early control of disease, eg remove skin cancer.
- To improve the skin's appearance by removing growths, discolourations, or damage caused by ageing, sunlight or disease.
- To establish a definite diagnosis (biopsy).
How are dermatologists trained?
Dermatologists are medical doctors. In New Zealand, after completing six years of medical school the dermatologist-to-be must complete a general medical training programme which usually takes 3 to 4 years. After a rigorous examination (FRACP) he or she is then eligible to enter advanced training.
The advanced training in dermatology involves at least a further four years of intensive study, research and practice in a variety of approved training centres in New Zealand and overseas. The position is usually that of a registrar or training fellow who is closely supervised by experienced dermatologists.
In total, a dermatologist has a minimum of 13 years of training.
How many dermatologists are there?
In New Zealand today, there are about 40 practising dermatologists, of whom most are members of the NZDS, the New Zealand Dermatological Society Incorporated, the organisation which oversees professional standards and continuing medical education. Members of the Society are Vocationally Registered as Specialists by the Medical Council of New Zealand.
Is there on-going training?
Continuing medical education (CME) helps to keep dermatologists up to date and is a requirement for registration by the Medical Council of New Zealand. The New Zealand Dermatological Society oversees a CME certification programme. This is accomplished through special courses, participation in symposia, lectures and seminars organised by the New Zealand Dermatological Society Incorportated, and other Dermatological Societies overseas.
Is the work of dermatologists changing?
Dermatology is constantly adapting itself to meet the changing medical challenges of our society. New drugs may cause unusual side-effects; pesticides, industrial compounds and cosmetics continually pose new dermatological problems. More leisure time and outdoor work has increased the exposure to the sun and other hazards which can cause skin disease.
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