From student to consultant dermatologist

Inauspicious beginnings

There’s a long-standing joke in Indian households: you can be anything you want to be when you grow up, so long as it’s a doctor, engineer or lawyer. While I’m half-joking, I’m sort of half-not. Coming from a family of medics, it was almost assumed that I would follow in these footsteps. In fact, I can’t really remember having very many discussions with regards to my future career until a few days before it was time to submit my university application forms. 

My mother has long been supportive of my hopes and dreams. When I told her I wanted to study physics at university, she stopped what she was doing and looked at me quizzically. When she realised this wasn’t some sort of ill-thought out joke, she told me in a very matter-of-fact manner: “Sreedhar, you think you are clever. But you are not that clever. Just be a good boy and do medicine.” As a man who avoids conflict at almost any cost, I was a ‘good boy’ and dutifully applied to medicine.

If it’s dry, make it wet. If it’s wet, make it dry

Medical school is an odd rite of passage. You are essentially an adult walking around hospital wards but you are often made to feel a nuisance, a burden to the doctors doing the Important Clinical Work and a ‘go-fer’ whose only job is to facilitate the mundane. Some of this is the sorry state of the status quo: there is the notion of paying one’s dues before we get to do the interesting stuff. This notion is outdated and squeezes out any joy from enthusiastic medical students and junior doctors. 

We rotate within different specialities as students. While many of my consultants didn’t have much time for students, my dermatology consultant on placement couldn’t be more different. She treated me like a human being, took time to address me by name (!) and was actually interested in my thoughts. This then imbued me with the interest to actually learn more about the field. Some non-dermatologist doctors joke that dermatology is very simple: if it’s dry make it wet, and if it’s wet, make it dry. This is, however, actually pretty accurate! 

The eyes cannot see what the mind does not know

In contrast to cardiologists or lung physicians, we usually don’t need to rely on fancy tests to make diagnoses. The disease sits plainly in front of our eyes. We use our training and visual memory bank to make the correct diagnosis. Just because you can see it, doesn’t automatically equate to knowing what the problem is. As the medical adage goes, the eyes cannot see what the mind does not know. 

Before we get to call ourself a Consultant Dermatologist, we have spent years studying the skin. This means that we can often diagnose a lump on the skin or a rash within seconds. With an image, we can diagnose and treat the problem with minimal fuss. This has meant that the pandemic has had less of an impact on our ability to provide good clinical care.

Diagnosing people from the comfort of their sofa

Due to restrictions on people visiting the hospital, NHS waiting lists for dermatology have spiralled out of control.

In view of this, we developed an online dermatology platform where we’re able to diagnose and treat people from the comfort (and safety) of their own homes. As the phrase goes, a picture is worth a thousand words! Not that I’m plugging it, but if you have any friends or family complaining about their skin – send them our way!