Dermatology Residents Make a Difference
When Julia Kasprzak, MD, tells her family, friends and acquaintances that she is going to enter a residency in dermatology, she often is playfully called a "pimple popper MD," in reference to an infamous "Seinfeld" television episode. She also gets asked if a career in dermatology is anything similar to the recent "Grey's Anatomy" episode in which the dermatology residents received regular spa treatments and hand massages.
That pop culture view of dermatology is 180 degrees removed from what Kasprzak experiences at a dermatology resident-run free walk-in clinic.
A decade or so ago, UW Health dermatologist William Aughenbaugh, MD, worked in the general MEDiC free clinic as a UW medical student and noted that a fair number of patients seen there had dermatologic concerns.
Later, as a dermatology resident in Madison, Aughenbaugh became interested in sharing his knowledge of dermatology with medical students and using that knowledge to provide care to underserved groups. He started the clinic as a new UW SMPH faculty member in 2004, as a specialty associated with the Southside MEDiC Clinic.
Today, the free dermatology clinic serves 10 to 12 patients on the first Saturday of every month for a variety of conditions, from acne to erythema nodosum, an inflammatory disorder characterized by red nodules under the skin on the legs and shins.
Kasprzak’s interest in dermatology was piqued when she met Aughenbaugh while working as the medical student clinic coordinator at Southside MEDiC during her second year. Every month, Aughenbaugh and other dermatology faculty and residents dedicate their time on Saturday mornings to the free clinic to serve individuals who otherwise could not afford care.
An Eye-Opening Experience
“Working with these physicians was not only a stimulating educational experience, it also opened my eyes to the huge need for dermatologists among the uninsured. I witnessed them provide in-depth care and follow-up to patients with complicated, sometimes debilitating dermatologic conditions,” says Kasprzak.
One attending physician, George Reizner, MD, diagnosed and treated scabies in a whole family, including two children who were miserable from the constant itching. For patients with conditions requiring more complex care than can be provided at the Saturday free clinic, UW general and subspecialty dermatologists as well as dermatopathologists graciously volunteer their services during normal clinic hours at their 1 South Park Street office.
For example, contact dermatitis specialist Rita Lloyd, MD, volunteered her expertise to find the source of a patient's contact dermatitis by doing thorough patch testing. This patient had lived with a rash on his hands and forearms for more than 12 months. The dermatitis was not only painful but also caused emotional stress because of its unknown origin.
Through the testing, he learned the rash was caused by chemicals in the materials he used in his job as a mechanic, and, most important, that he could control it.
“Overall, it was striking to see how physically and psychologically challenging some dermatologic conditions can be for some patients, but even more striking to see how grateful patients are for the care they receive,” said Lloyd. “Even during visits, even if we can only reassure patients about conditions such as drug eruptions or benign nevi, it is incredibly rewarding to see their relief.”
Dermatology Clinic Improves Students' Skills
In addition to providing care to the underserved, the clinic enhances the academic and clinical skills of the medical students. First- and second-year medical students learn how to perform skin examinations and then write progress notes using proper dermatologic terms. This often is the students' first introduction to dermatology, and the clinic setup allows them to have one-on-one teaching opportunities with attending physicians and residents.
Rosemarie Liu, MD, one of the current chief dermatology residents and a future attending physician, has dedicated a significant amount of time to the clinic and the education of students. Before residency, she volunteered at a clinic for the underserved in Virginia and wanted to continue that work in Madison.
Liu found that she enjoys working with patients of different socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds. She often prepares mini-presentations about common dermatologic conditions for the clinic student volunteers, which helps build their enthusiasm for the field of dermatology.
She proudly acknowledges her goal to follow in the footsteps of the dermatology attending physicians and residents and to continue to provide care for the underserved in her future career.
“The dermatologists and dermatology residents at UW-Madison have been some of the most compassionate, humanistic physicians I have known in my four years of medical school,” said Liu. “Working with them at this free clinic was my inspiration for entering the field of dermatology. They demonstrated to me the true meaning of serving others selflessly and showed me the art of troubleshooting the socioeconomic barriers to healthcare that our patients are faced with every day.
“My training at the clinic has prepared me well for my future dermatology residency at Cook County Hospital in Chicago, where I will be working for underserved and uninsured patients every day,” concludes Kasprzak. “My experience with the free dermatology clinic has given me the initial skills and determination to serve this patient population. I am sure the UW dermatologists will continue to inspire future generations of medical students to dedicate their time and talents to working with the underserved.”
Date Published: 08/09/2010