Why Dermatology?

Updated: Aug 25

Trying to figure out what kind of doctor you should become? Wondering which 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. Today's post is on why Dr. Leela Athalye chose dermatology and why it is a great field.




When I was a little girl, I loved helping people. I was committed to finding a future career that centered around just that. As early as elementary school, I told people "I am going to be a doctor one day". They mostly laughed, but I knew I wouldn't stop until I achieved the goal. I always thought I would end up in pediatrics- my parents often joked that I loved children so much I would pay people to let me babysit! However, I tried to keep an open mind during medical school and considered literally everything from sports medicine to neurology.   During winter break from medical school, I returned home and reconnected with some childhood friends.


My good friend's dad was a dermatologist and I thought it would be nice to shadow him so that I could rule out dermatology. 


To my complete surprise, the exact opposite happened.


I was so intrigued by everything he did. I wanted to understand which moles needed a biopsy, or why an actinic keratosis needed to be sprayed with liquid nitrogen. I ran home and read so much about dermatology and I just couldn't stop, everything about it was fascinating to me.  My medical school friends didn't know what hit me when I returned to school!  From that point on, I was determined to become a dermatologist and every medical school paper I signed had "aspiring dermatologist", following my name. I even made a website called "dermgunner.com" that gathered a cult following among medical students.  When I interviewed with who would become my future dermatology program director, he quoted something from my website!  The day I got into dermatology was one of the best days of my life and the specialty makes me happy every day.  Read on for my top five traits that might indicate dermatology is  the right specialty for you.  1. You love to study and work hard. 


Sure, dermatology gets a reputation of giving you a kooshy lifestyle with no call, but it is actually a ton of studying. There are so many details to learn including pathology, learning genodermatology including tons of syndromes, learning facial anatomy, learning surgical skills, and more. I spent more time studying in residency than I did seeing patients, and we saw a lot of patients.  

2. You prefer  to be a "busy-body". 


I am very task oriented and I like to see and help a lot of people. The good and the bad about dermatology is the fact that you see a ton of people quickly but you have to be very thorough and detail-oriented in a short amount of time. 

3. You like to beautify. 


A lot of dermatology is visualizing what the patient wants their skin to look like, whether it be the final scar after a surgery or the desired outcome of cosmetic procedures. It is truly an art and a science! 

4. You care about the "little things". 


One of the major tasks of a dermatologist is to notice the tiniest lesions with often the most subtle texture or color change in order to save someone's life. A knack for focusing on the detail can truly save someones life. 

5. You care about your patients and want to educate them. 


A lot of dermatology is teaching patient's how to be patient and how to stick with treatment regimens. Many "bread and butter" dermatology patients with acne and psoriasis take months to begin improving, and effective communication and education is vital. We still haven't cured things as simple as warts and therefore, education is key to minimize patient frustrations and to maximize compliance.  Communication, the desire to educate, and truly caring for the patient can help you best serve your patients, and enhance their outcomes.