Should Non-Dermatologists Practice “Dermatology”?

nb_cover.jpgVia Skin & Aging: Dermatology vs. Dermatologist

The Importance of Specialists

However, there cannot be any misrepresentation on the part of the physician. Every patient should be given an option of seeing a specialist who really is a specialty-trained, board-certified physician. It is not okay, in my opinion, for any physician to call him/herself a “dermatologist” simply because he or she has an interest in the field, especially when this claim has purely financial motivation.

Dr. Goldenberg, Section Editor of Issues in Dermatology, is a Dermatopathology Fellow at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Department of Pathology, in Denver, CO.

Vs: Seeing the Good Side of our Colleagues

I have tremendous confidence in the skills of my dermatologist colleagues. I regularly see their commitment to their patients and our specialty. Like Dr. Goldenberg, I think it means something to be a “dermatologist” and believe it is wrong for a doctor to try to mislead patients.

I wonder, though, if Dr. Goldenberg goes too far in impugning the motivation of medical colleagues in other disciplines. Is there evidence that “many physicians, foreign and U.S. medical graduates alike, claim to be ‘dermatologists’ even though they have no training in the field whatsoever”? Unless there’s good evidence to the contrary, I think it is wrong to suggest that other physicians’ acts are based on “purely financial motivation”; we all have financial motivations, but it seems to me that physicians are largely driven by a desire to improve the lives of their patients.

There is a strong tendency to see our colleagues’ mistakes and never see their successes. Such experiences seem to bolster the all-too-human tendency to think the worst of others. We’ll all agree it is wrong to mislead patients about one’s training and experience. It may also be wrong to believe the worst of colleagues and to assume a priori that they are acting outside of their capabilities and training.

Dr. Feldman, Chief Medical Editor, is in the Department of Dermatology at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, NC.