What Is a Dermatopathologist?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 25 June 2014
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A dermatopathologist is a doctor who specializes in skin diseases. This may sound like an obscure area of specialty, but over 1,500 conditions involving the skin are recognized and the myriad ways in which they present really can occupy a doctor or researcher for an entire career. Dermatopathology is a recognized clinical subspecialty and people who work in this field usually apply for certification because it indicates that they have met the requirements of a certifying board and are likely highly skilled.

To become a dermatopathologist, it is necessary to attend medical school and then receive training in a pathology or dermatology residency. Once qualified, the doctor can pursue a fellowship in dermatopathology. Board certification in both the primary and secondary specialty is usually recommended, and a dermatopathologist usually attends numerous conferences over the course of a career to keep up with advances in the field. Some dermatopathologists are also actively involved in research and have publication credits to their names.

The dermatopathologist acts as a clinical consultant. When a dermatologist takes a biopsy from a patient with a skin condition, the sample can be sent to a dermatopathologist for examination. One advantage of using a specialist is that the dermatopathologist may have seen the condition before, and may thus arrive at a more accurate diagnosis more quickly. The dermatopathologist can also make treatment recommendations and assist the dermatologist with providing the best level of care to the patient.

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Pathologists also sometimes have use for a dermatopathologist. When pathologists conduct examinations of deceased individuals or samples of tissue, sometimes they encounter things which are unfamiliar. A specialist like a dermatopathologist can be called upon for a second opinion which may confirm the suspicions of the pathologist or reveal new information which could help narrow down a cause of death or direct a course of treatment. It is also not uncommon for a dermatopathologist to supervise a dermatology grand rounds or a discussion on morbidity and mortality in a dermatology department because she or he has advanced training in skin diseases.

Dermatopathology is a highly competitive field. People who enter the field from a dermatology residency must also contend with the fierce competition to get into dermatology programs, because dermatology is a highly desirable medical specialty. Individuals who are interested in this medical career should plan on getting excellent grades and test scores to increase their chances of matching into programs which will meet their needs.

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