Finding a Good Dermatologist
Last updated: March 2023
In my experience, one of the most important decisions one can make about skin care is the choice of a dermatologist. This is a very personal decision because of the nature of the relationship. One’s dermatologist is charged with investigating every inch of skin to make correct diagnoses and medical recommendations.
This was not easy for me initially. I really was not comfortable in being examined head to toe. Yet, this is what was required. I didn’t really like being touched and prodded, but this was critical to my long-term health. I didn’t like having interns and students in the room either. It was just not fun. I learned to become more comfortable.
Competence and comfort
When I think about finding a good dermatologist I look for a combination of competence and comfort. I want an accomplished doctor who is easy to work with. In my experience, many dermatologists were more focused on dealing with acne or the effects of aging and were not experts in skin cancer.
I needed someone whose job it was to keep me alive. I looked for someone who was Board certified and had experience with skin cancer, especially melanoma. I looked around, made inquiries, read reviews. I did my homework. I would never skimp on choosing a surgeon. I did my due diligence in finding a good dermatologist as well. I often found that I knew as much about skin cancer as some of the doctors I ran into in the 1990’s. This has changed dramatically as more is known about the disease.
The doctor must be in the house
It is not always easy to find a good dermatologist. When I moved to Buffalo I had a hard time finding one initially. I was even tempted to drive 45 minutes away to Rochester. Fortunately, I found a good one; but unfortunately, she passed away and then I had to start my search again. I am happy with my doctor now. I don’t always see him for my full scan and see his Physician’s Assistant, but he is always brought in at the end of the examination for a final wrap up. I always make sure he sees me at some point in the appointment. There is too much at stake to make an appointment when he is out of town or on vacation.
A hands-on experience
Not only are recommendations and certifications critical, it is important that the doctor attends to your questions and puts his/her hands on you. Finding skin cancer lesions and possible cancerous moles are not just a matter looking around. Many of these abnormalities are more easily discovered through touch as they have three dimensional aspects to them. My doctor does not wear gloves when he examines my skin and this is for that very purpose. Like I wrote earlier, this was not comfortable at first, but I learned to deal with it.
It takes time and research to find someone who works for you. Not all dermatologists are created equal just like not all plumbers and electricians have the same skills, training or passion for their work. Remember that your Family Physician or GP may not have the specific information needed to help you. Dermatology and particularly the medical profession’s understanding of skin cancer issues is ever evolving and understanding the latest research is critical to your survival.
Don’t cut corners in your search. This American Academy of Dermatology Association search tool may be helpful for you.
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