How to Choose a Dermatologist

Skin is our greatest organ (and yes, I’m biased!) as it assists us in a number of critical life functions including regulating body temperature, preventing infections, providing sensory input, conveying emotions, and exuding vitality. Skin and hair provide a first impression that others notice when they look at you. It is central to your self-expression and sense of identity, belonging and overall wellness. So when you have an acne outbreak, notice persistent hair thinning, see a few unwanted wrinkles, or are worried about skin cancer, it is critical to be uncompromising in selecting the right dermatologist.

So how do you go about finding a partner in skin health? Here are some recommendations for partnering with a qualified dermatologist.

Board Certification

Board certification is the gold standard for the specialty of dermatology. The American Board of Dermatology (ABD) remains the single most reliable certifier of dermatologists in the United States. Other notable certifying bodies include the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons (Canada) and the American Osteopathic Board of Dermatologists.

Certification lets the public know that the doctor has at least 8 years of medical training, including 3 years of supervised dermatology training in an accredited Dermatology residency program. It is a confirmation the physician has passed rigorous exams that attest to their competence and have met the number of required procedures necessary to graduate from their programs. Board certification is subject to continuous re-certification processes that require documentation of ongoing medical education, licensure, and repeated examinations throughout a physician’s professional life.

Beware that a claim of board-certification may not necessarily be in dermatology! Always check with one of the above certifying bodies before proceeding with a dermatologist. You should be able to freely search a physician’s medical license, board certification and residency credentials.

The American Academy of Dermatology offers fellowship status (FAAD) as another level of designation to qualified dermatologists. This is commonly listed behind a dermatologists credentials and is another indicator of quality training and expertise.

Specialty & Focus

Dermatologists are trained in the science and disease states of skin, hair, and nails and provide guidance on the latest treatments for such ailments. A board-certified dermatologist (BCD) has broad training across ages in surgical, medical, and cosmetic dermatology. However, it is possible to find doctors who have dedicated their practice to one or more of these areas of focus. A Mohs surgeon has completed a separate fellowship in the surgical removal and reconstruction of skin cancers in sensitive locations and has a separate certification process.

Many dermatologists have certain areas of focus or expertise, often based on their unique training and clinical interests. You may find that some Derms have a passion for eczema, while others see more skin cancer or acne. Cosmetic dermatology, advanced skin cancer treatment, hair loss, psoriasis, etc – there’s a partner to be made with a board-certified dermatologist. Don’t be afraid to ask what they like – it may surprise you to learn what special interests your Derm has!

Reviews and Referrals

Qualifications and experience do not always guarantee the perfect match for you. Someone might be a pretty caring and knowledgeable dermatologist, but if they’re not the best partner for you that’s ok! Practice operations, treatment approaches, ancillary staff, even hours of availability are things to consider when choosing a BCD.

Your primary care physician may be a great source of information as they have probably worked alongside a BCD for some time and have received numerous communications and patient reports back regarding the type of care. I love partnering with PCPs to enhance a patient’s overall care coordination and experience, and it can feel comforting to know your primary doc has inside knowledge of the dermatologist’s practice!

Inquire about the type of services offered, kind of facility, and overall experience from your friends and relatives. A positive experience will be remembered, and word of mouth is a great way to build a sense of trust before you meet someone.

Lastly, online reviews may paint a general picture of what to expect during your appointment. Satisfaction surveys on courteous and helpful staff, waiting time, and scheduling appointments may provide key information. Keep in mind, physicians are prohibited by law from responding to most online reviews.

Make the Call

Dr. Damstetter of Reserve Dermatology and Aesthetics has extensive experience and knowledge in many domains of dermatologic care including acne, hair loss, skin cancer, cosmetics and skin health. If you live in or near Glenview, IL, schedule an appointment with Dr. Damstetter today for all your dermatology needs.

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