The past four years that I’ve spent living and practicing as a dermatologist in Canmore Alberta have truly been some of the most enjoyable years for me, both professionally and personally. I love the abundant nature and wildlife here almost as much as I love the Canmore culture that places a priority on balancing work with living and enjoying life.
There’s no other place right now where I would rather practice my medical profession than Canmore, which is part of the reason why I’m establishing my own private dermatology centre in the town this summer. To be located in downtown Canmore in Suite 204 at 1240 Railway Avenue, my Centre, called Art of Skin Dermatology and Laser, will offer a knowledgeable and trained medical staff, as well as comprehensive and advanced diagnosis and treatment options for a wide variety of medical, surgical, laser and cosmetic skin diseases and conditions. Art of Skin will be equipped with advanced laser treatment technology, including fractionated CO2, Erbium, Yag, Alexandrite, and Radio Frequency to name a few, which will enable us to treat in a safe and effective fashion everything from excessive hair growth, to removing unwanted pigmentation, blood vessels and moles, to improving skin laxity, removing wrinkles and improving scars, to treating precancer and skin cancer lesions.
I’m very excited for the opening of Art of Skin; but I’d like to stress another very critical reason for why I’m opening my own centre and why, more generally, I think it’s incredibly important that residents of Canmore and the Bow Valley have access locally to advanced skin care diagnostic and treatment options provided by a Canadian Royal College accredited dermatologist.
As I’ve undoubtedly communicated before, in the four years I’ve practiced as a dermatologist in Canmore and to a lessor degree in the years before, I, along with most of my dermatologist colleagues in the province, have noticed a trend of residents in large and smaller centres to be increasingly seeking the medical and surgical advice, diagnosis and treatment of non dermatologist physicians – and even non-physicians for an increasing number of potentially serious skin-related issues and medical and surgical skin conditions.
Instead of seeking the expertise of a trained and Royal College accredited dermatologist, an increasing number of patients are consulting the advice of quasi, so-called skin care “specialists”, such as estheticians, beauty department employees, drug store employees, pharmacists, nurses, other para-medicals, and even dentists. And the scope of this trend is not relegated to cosmetic needs – more patients are visiting non-physicians and non-dermatologist physicians who propose to be skin specialists for advanced medical information and to diagnose and treat complicated problems such as resistant acne, troublesome eczema and psoriasis that has failed multiple initial treatments. In some cases, patients are seeing these non-dermatologists for assessment and treatment of pre-cancer and even skin cancer lesions. In many cases, missed or incorrect diagnoses at the hands of non-dermatologists have resulted in very serious consequences for the patient. For example, I recently had to perform multiple surgeries on a young lady for several skin cancers on her face that had been misdiagnosed as eczema by a non-dermatologist for several years.
This is an enormous concern for myself as a dermatologist, especially considering the fact that this trend is not only seen in Canmore and the Bow Valley area. In many other areas of Alberta and Canada, an increasing number of people are going to proposed “skin specialists” to be treated for a variety of skin-related issues, so much so that the Alberta Society of Dermatologists (ASD) is currently in the process of establishing a provincial media campaign to help educate the public as to what is a dermatologist in terms of training, skills and expertise, what it means for a dermatologist to be accredited as a Fellow by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, why it is important to be seen by a dermatologist for skin concerns and diseases, and finally how the public can identify who in the province is an accredited dermatologist.
A few simple ways for a patient to determine the training of a particular physician is to ask the physician if he or she is an accredited dermatologist with the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, to look at their business card or to pay attention to the certificates hanging on the office wall. Such a physician will identify them self clearly as an accredited dermatologist, and have FRCPC written after their name. Only a dermatologist accredited with the Royal College can use the initials FRCPC to identify themselves as a Fellow of the Royal College of the Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, specialist in Dermatology.
Alternatively, a search on the website of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta will give a list of accredited Dermatologists in the province. A patient can find this information by coping the following address into their browser search bar: http://www.cpsa.ab.ca/PhysicianSearch/SearchResults.aspx?Specialty=Dermatology
Interestingly, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (RCPSC), the governing and accrediting body who is responsible for accrediting all specialists (including dermatology) in the country has itself recognized a need to further educate the public on the value, in terms of training, skills, requirements and commitment to long-term learning, of specialists accredited by the Royal College in Canada. To this end, the Royal College has recently undertaken a nationwide campaign to promote what it means for any specialist (including dermatologists) to be accredited by its governing and administrative body.
You can read more about this subject by going to the Royal College microsite. Simply copy the following web address and paste it into your browser’s search bar.
As part of their campaign, The Royal College (RCPSC) has communicated that accredited dermatologists are committed to the lifelong learning and continuing professional development of their dermatological knowledge. Their campaign has also communicated that RCPSC Fellows take part in the Royal College’s Maintenance of Certification (MOC) Program, which includes mandatory participation in ongoing activities such as conferences, workshops, seminars, rounds, journal clubs, small-group learning sessions, and self-assessment programs.
In my mind, there is no doubt of the importance that patients, whenever possible, see medically trained and Royal College accredited dermatologists for issues related to their skin’s health. There is also no doubt in my mind of the importance of patients confirming whether the physician who states they are a ‘skin specialist” is, in fact, an accredited dermatologist. If the physician is not a dermatologist, the patient does have the right to ask to be referred to a dermatologist.
I know that the potential risk for improper and incorrect diagnosis and treatment of skin conditions and diseases dramatically escalates when a patient seeks the guidance and trusts the knowledge of non-dermatologist, non-physician’s for their skin concerns. Similarly, I know first-hand of the severe complications, let alone sometimes permanent psychologic and physiologic damage and financial expense to patients that can result when patients follow the untrained and unregulated advice and treatment of these individuals.
As mentioned, I’m greatly looking forward to opening my Art of Skin Centre that will function in addition to my current general Dermatology clinic at the Canmore General Hospital. These two complementary clinics will provide an important resource for Bow Valley and region residents where they can obtain knowledgeable, experienced and responsible guidance from a Royal College Dermatologist, an accredited Skin Specialist.