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Why Dermatology

Updated: Sep 20, 2019

Trying to figure out what kind of doctor you should become? Wondering what specialty you should choose? Then SheMD's Why Specialty Series is perfect for you! We're bringing you female physicians sharing WHY they chose their specialty. Dr. Reed is sharing why she chose the field of Dermatology and what makes Derm a great field.

My journey to MD began young... as long as I can remember. I was that 5 year old little girl trying to learn how to spell “pediatrician.” My dad battled with Multiple Sclerosis, and passed when I was 18. His disease further solidified my interest in medicine. I knew wanted to do something to help patients- medicine was the only profession I ever considered. From pediatrics to plastics to cardiology to ER to ob-gyn to dermatology. I had to explore a lot before I found the specialty that really called out to me. I seemed to like it all.

In med school, I fell in love with ob-gyn in gross anatomy when we learned about the uterus and ovaries. I’m still in awe of these organs. I went down this journey; organizations, research, and away rotations all in ob-gyn. I even applied and interviewed to ob-gyn. So what happened? I chose an elective- dermatology- my fourth year, and knew within a few days I needed to know more about this specialty. Unfortunately, I did not have much exposure to derm throughout med school until this elective. I loved that I could work with my hands through excisions, biopsies, injectables, etc. I loved the patient variety- from pediatrics to elderly and both genders. I loved the artistic component of cosmetic and surgical dermatology. I loved the detective-like aspect of medical dermatology. Skin and hair can be a window to many underlying conditions. I loved skin checks, finding skin cancers, and treating them.

I was torn. I had two loves- dermatology and ob-gyn. Ultimately I had to listen to a gut feeling, and I’m not so sure I’ve ever been one to go with “gut feelings” or gestalts. Something was pulling and drawing me to dermatology more than ob-gyn, even though I could see myself doing either. So, I did something crazy for a fourth year med student. I ranked both specialties- derm first, followed by ob-gyn. I decided to let “fate” make the ultimate decision.

Match week rolled around. I got notice early that week I matched. I was thrilled, although I did not now if I matched dermatology (including a prelim or transitional intern year) or if I matched ob-gyn.

On Match Day I remember holding the envelope tight. The words inside this envelope would determine not only what city I’d live in the next 4 years for residency, but also what specialty I’d practice the rest of my life. With my family around me I opened up that thin envelope to learn my fate: Dermatology.

Now nearly 7 years later from Match Day, I’m over 2.5 years into private practice as a board-certified dermatologist. Each day I get to incorporate medical, cosmetic, and procedural dermatology, see patients of both genders of all ages, treat skin cancer, and there are always interesting rashes to keep my on my toes; no day is like another. I’m grateful for the heartache, stress, unknowns, and the journey that took me where I am today practicing what I love. Most of all, I’m glad and very grateful I made the scary leap to follow my gestalt. The patients make it worth it.

5 Reasons Why you Should Consider Dermatology by Dr. Kellie Reed:

  1. You love many different specialties in med school. - Dermatology is a great hybrid of many specialties. I loved nearly everything, and it was tough to pin down one specialty I’d enjoy practicing for a lifetime. The skin is often the window to underlying medical conditions, so a good understanding of other conditions is key to being a strong dermatologist. I often work with pathology, rheumatology, ob-gyn, primary care, oncology, plastic surgery, ophthalmology, and psychiatry to name a few specialties.

  2. You like a fast-paced environment. - If you are like me and don’t like to sit still, then dermatology might be for you! Dermatology is fast-paced due to the number of patients typically seen in a given day. It is a high volume specialty. There are pros and cons to this, but for me I like interacting with people and it energizes me.

  3. You like to work with your hands. - I didn’t realize initially how procedural based dermatology can be. Of course, you can choose if you want to do more or less procedures when you practice. Everyday there are typically shave and punch biopsies to help with diagnoses or testing suspicious skin cancers, injections (such as for acne, keloids, and hair loss), laser treatments, skin surgeries, and cosmetic treatments such as fillers, neuromodulators (ie botox), chemical peels, and more. You can choose what you are most interested in, whether it is one of the previously mentioned procedures, or all of them. I personally love to utilize my artistic/creative side when performing skin surgeries and during cosmetic treatments.

  4. You like to study. - Dermatologists study over 3,000 different skin, hair, nail, and mucous membrane diseases and conditions in training. Dermatologists have more typical office and on-call hours than other specialities, but dermatology is a very study intensive specialty. Plan to spend a lot of time after clinic studying, particularly in residency. This is what makes a dermatologist unique. We have mastered “bread and butter” dermatology, but we learn thousands of different conditions so we can be aware and diagnose and treat the “zebra” medical condition among the “horses” that walk through the clinic.

  5. You want to save lives. - Of course this goes for a lot of medical specialities, but as a dermatologist, you are making a difference every day. There are a lot of skin exams in a dermatology practice. One person dies of melanoma every hour. However, the estimated five-year survival rate for patients whose melanoma is detected early is about 99 percent in the U.S. Prevention is key. I counsel patients on sun protective measures and help them identify what to look for at home on their skin. I perform numerous skin exams every day and the goal is early-detection to help increase survival rates. Besides skin cancers, you help patients’ quality of life by treating their various rashes, acne, and skin concerns. Improved quality of life leads to a happier life, and I hope (and think!) my patients leave my office happier than they came in.

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