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Look no further

Dermatologists treat diseases and also give skin a new life. Rahat Bano reports

education Updated: Dec 10, 2009 10:05 IST
Rahat Bano

Your look is an all-important part of your personality today. And that’s what is driving the demand for dermatologists, though they also cure ailments as serious as psoriasis or leprosy… and recommend a remedy for your pimple pains.

“Dermatology is one of the top fields now because our students figure in the top 20 rankings of all postgraduate students in the institute,” says Neena Khanna, professor, department of dermatology and venereology, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).

Jyoti Dhawan, 29, who has done her MD in dermatology, says “There are no lengthy surgical procedures in this field.” An alumna of Delhi’s University College of Medical Sciences, now senior resident doctor at AIIMS, Dhawan and her colleagues treat patients suffering from psoriasis, sexually transmitted diseases, leprosy and vitiligo, though a growing number — more than 30 per cent — comes for cosmetic problems, including acne, informs Khanna. Consequently, she adds, the curriculum is now more focused on cosmetology. “We train students in lasers, cosmetic and dermatological surgery and cosmetology.”

Points out SK Bose, senior consultant dermatologist, Apollo Hospital, “Most dermatologists now do more than the basic dermatology that was done 30 to 40 years ago. Nowadays, everyone wants to go in for cosmetic dermatology.” Simal Soin, cosmetic dermatologist and medical director, A Plus Medispa, agrees, “People who have done basic dermatology are now foraying into cosmetic dermatology.”

The maximum demand for their skills is in the private sector, where dermatologists smoothen facial wrinkles, fill up scars, lift droopy brow lines, de-fuzz underarms, and a lot more. However, regular MD programmes train students “very little” in cosmetic dermatology, says Soin. “Except lasers, they don’t really equip you (with the requisite skills).”

In the absence of many specialised courses in India, experts suggest that after an MD in dermatology, aspirants could go overseas for short-term certifications. Bose suggests that students train abroad in aesthetic, cosmetic and photo dermatology, contact dermatitis, trichology (concerned with hair), chronological photo-ageing, cutaneous surgery, and laser treatment and start practising. Pursue at least a one-month certification with hands-on experience, in a foreign country, says Soin. Else, work under a cosmetic dermatologist and attend conferences, she says.

What's it about
A branch of medicine, dermatology deals with the skin and its diseases. This speciality involves both medical and surgical interventions. Dermatologists treat diseases as well as cosmetic problems of the skin, hair, scalp and nails. Nowadays, a lot of dermatologists are branching out to cosmetic dermatology

Clock Work
A dermatologist’s average workday at AIIMS:
8 am: Academic session
9 am: See patients in OPD/ ward work. Do surgery. Perform small diagnostic tests
for patients. Inspect the in-patients department
1.45 pm: Grab a quick bite for lunch
2-5 pm: Work in the clinic for psoriasis, vitiligo and leprosy
6-8 pm - In OPD, work gets over by 6 pm but in the ward it can extend up to 8 pm

A cosmetic dermatologist’s average workday at a skin clinic would, however, be different

The Payoff
In a Central government hospital, a fresh MD in dermatology makes about Rs 50,000 to Rs 60,000 (gross salary) per month. A professor/ department head and director earns about Rs 1.5 lakh per month. In the private sector, the pay package depends on proficiency as well as on man-hours and is generally upwards of Rs 25,000 per month

. Aesthetic sense
. Counselling skills for dealing with patients
. Skilled hands for surgery
. Lots of patience
. Soft, sympathetic approach to patients

How do i get there?
Opt for science with physics, chemistry and biology at the Plus Two level. Follow an MBBS degree with one of the options: a) a two-year MD programme in dermatology; b) do a house job, clear the primary exam of the National Board of Examination and then take up a three-year DNB programme in dermatology; c) do a house job, earn a diploma in dermatology and then complete a two-year DNB programme. If you wish to do cosmetic dermatology, you can go abroad for short-term certifications.

Else, train under a senior specialist. In Delhi, Behl Skin Institute and School of Dermat- ology offers a correspondence course (fellowship) in dermatology to medicine grads

Institutes & urls
AIIMS, New Delhi
. Christian Medical College,
Vellore home.cmcvellore.ac.in
. Maulana Azad Medical College, New Delhi;
. Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh

Pros & Cons
No lengthy surgical procedures
. A ‘women-friendly’ specialisation, as you do not handle emergencies
. One slip on your part can literally mar a patient’s look — maybe for life

Job prospects are bright

A senior practitioner talks about this ’interesting’ field

Alongside leprosy, STDs, psoriasis and eczema, what’re the other problems a dermatologist deals with today?
Acne, baldness, birth and other marks, vascular malformations, warts, moles, and to an extent freckles.

What’s the demand for dermatologists in India, especially in the cosmetic and aesthetic solutions industry?
There’s a lot of demand. In cosmetology, there’s more growth for lasers, fillers, and botox. And, though it doesn’t come under cosmetology, nowadays a lot of people have hair problems, so they go for treatment.

To what extent do the MD programmes in dermatology equip students with what’s required today? How much of cosmetology is part of the syllabi?
There are two types of programmes. One is the three-year DNB, which you become eligible for after clearing the primary exam of the National Board of Examination. The second is, you do a diploma after your house job (which is taken up after MBBS) and then do a two-year DNB programme. So, you do an MBBS programme, do your house job, clear the primary exam and do a three-year DNB. Alternatively, complete your MBBS followed by a house job, do a diploma and then a two-year DNB.

Third, (after MBBS) you can do a two-year MD programme in dermat- ology. Cosmetology is not too much part of the curriculum. I would advise young (medical) graduates to take up dermatology. There are excellent job prospects for dermatologists. A lot of women choose this as there is no night duty. It’s an interesting subject. Now people are more aware of skin problems. In the middle-aged group, more people now come for skin tightening than earlier.

As a career option, how does dermatology compare with other specialisations?
It depends on individual choice. It’s equally competitive to get into dermatology.

Asok Aggarwal, dean and senior consultant, Behl Skin Institute and School of Dermatology Interviewed by Rahat Bano