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Dermatologists are divided into two schools. One school does general medical dermatology, treating problems like: skin conditions, rashes, hair loss and cancers. A subspecialty of this is dermatologic surgery. If you’re going to have cancers removed or other surgery related to the skin, it's worth seeking out a board-certified dermatologic surgeon because they’re trained for that kind of surgery.
The other school focuses on cosmetic practice, which has looser regulations and requirements. There is no subspecialty of cosmetic dermatology, and it’s very tough to ascertain the training of a doctor in cosmetic practice. There are doctors trained in other specialties who are going into cosmetic, office-based practices simply because they have a medical license and it’s legal for them to do this even if they haven’t been trained in cosmetic procedures. So there is a wide range of expertise and experience among those who open cosmetic dermatology practices. Here's how to ensure you've found the best dermatologist, no matter what your needs:
· Look for board certification in dermatology or plastic and reconstructive surgery if you’re seeking cosmetic treatment. Wherever the doctor was trained, if they’re board certified, you know they've completed an approved residency program and met a minimal level of competence. That information can be found through the American Board of Medical Specialties or from sites like Vitals.com.
· Ask what training they’ve had above board certification. Were they trained in cosmetic practice in medical school, a teaching hospital or at a weekend seminar somewhere? It's a good sign if the doctor has a hospital appointment that allows him or her to do cosmetic procedures there. Most hospitals are cautious about granting privileges to do a procedure unless a doctor is trained in it; so, in that way, the hospital does the screening for you. If the dermatologist doesn’t have a hospital appointment, it may call into question their qualifications.
· Reputation is awfully important for any kind of cosmetic practice, so it doesn't hurt to ask around for referrals from friends and colleagues--especially those who've had the procedure you're considering.
· See what the dermatologist says about themselves on their website; many dermatologists offer more information about their backgrounds, expertise, and practice online.
John J. Connolly is president and CEO of Castle Connolly Medical Ltd. and former president of New York Medical College.