The practice of dermatology is way beyond a simple knowledge of the dermis and epidermis. It takes years of training to make one a real expert in its practice
By Gelyka Ruth R. Dumaraos
The Philippine Dermatological Society (PDS) has been at the forefront of reaching out to the public to address common misconceptions on skin health.
Despite the skin being the body’s largest, and fastest growing organ, many do not regard it as a top health priority, even when there is a large number of Filipinos with skin diseases such as acne, eczema, psoriasis, urticaria, contact dermatitis, fungal infections, just to cite a few.
For some Filipinos, common skin problems such as acne are often cured through do-it-yourself home remedies found in Google. What’s alarming is that consulting a dermatologist is their last resort, only done when the problem has progressed to its worst condition. And this leads to another unfortunate misconception that anyone who has attended a short course on “dermatology” can already be considered an expert.
The PDS has also reminded the public to entrust their dermatological concerns only with PDS-certified specialists. “We highly-recommend the public to consult only with PDS-certified dermatologists because they are the specialists who had undergone training in dermatology,” Dr. Ma. Purita Paz-Lao, PDS President stressed in an interview.
As the experts of the skin, hair, and nails, PDS residents undergo a rigid training in dermatology for three years and its subspecialties in any of the present 11 accredited training institutions under the umbrella of the society and need to pass the specialty board examination given by the Philippine Board of Dermatology before being bestowed the title of Diplomate and eventually as Fellow, Dr. Paz-Lao explained.
While the PDS president acknowledged the fact that more and more healthcare professionals are interested in caring for their skin, the public should also be wary on to whom they should entrust their skin’s health.
With the mushrooming of spas and skin clinics offering attractive promotions for skin services, Dr. Paz-Lao reminds the public to be always careful. “We cannot stop anyone from setting up any clinic, or a spa. But what we always ask remind the public, is to please ask if the dermatologist is PDS-certified. You can then be assured that your doctor is well qualified to diagnose and treat you,” she said.
Currently, there are close to 1, 200 dermatologists all over the country and the number increases every year. There are 11 medical institutions spread across the country which serve as training grounds for the specialty of dermatology. PDS is eyeing to partner with more private and public hospitals in the country, especially in far-flung areas to address the need of for accessible specialists in the provinces. At present, PDS has 3 applicant training hospital institutions for accreditation and has received new applications to add to this number.
“Our thrust is to fill in the provinces with PDS-certified dermatologists, by having more training institutions in strategic areas and outside the metropolis.”
Dermatology in Philippines
Back in the early 1900’s, there was little interest for dermatology. At that time, there was no separate subject dedicated for it and at best, it was only interlinked with studies on syphilology, and leprology.
But what may have ignited the interest for further study on dermatology was spurred by Dr. Perpetuo D. Gutierrez who taught dermatology and syphilology separately for the first time at the University of the Philippines-College of Medicine. It has inspired young doctors to go to United States, Europe, and Japan to pursue training and later on come back to the Philippines with a mission to raise awareness on dermatological care among Filipinos.
In 1952, after informal scientific meetings and exchange of thoughts on interesting and problematic cases by pioneer doctors who saw the urgency of having a body to represent dermatological care in the country, the Philippine Dermatological Society was finally born.
With Dr. Gutierrez as the first president serving three consecutive terms until 1958, PDS has gained recognition and respect from medical peers. Since its inception, PDS was recognized as a specialty society affiliated with the Philippine Medical Association (PMA) and had welcomed new members who came from further training abroad. At present, PDS is also the specialty society in dermatology certified by the Philippine College of Physicians (PCP).
PDS at 67
PDS has organized annual scientific conventions with local and foreign speakers and has collaborated with several international and Asian societies updating participants of in the latest in dermatology and dermatologic aesthetic trends. More importantly, PDS has continued to encourage and support both young and older members to pursue further training in many dermatology subspecialties, conduct and publish research studies, and be active participants and speakers in international congresses.
Now on its 67th year, the society maintains its quest for professional excellence, but does not lose sight of its mission of promoting public awareness on common dermatological problems, and preventing skin diseases through public information and education campaigns. It also upholds its high professional and ethical standards among its dermatologist-members, at the same time protecting them against unfair practices and competition from unqualified practitioners through legislation and regulations.
PDS as a humanitarian society has continually offered free dermatological care and treatment in the out-patient services of the 11 institutions and by its continuous involvement in medical missions all over the country.
Furthermore, PDS endeavors to maintain its local and international recognition of the specialty, establish linkages with the other specialties for a more comprehensive health care, foster camaraderie among members and colleagues from other countries and encourage academic advancement through scholarship and fellowship grants so the best possible dermatological care can be given to Filipinos.
After all, the training of dermatology is way beyond skin-deep, and it takes more than knowledge of the skin to become a real specialist in it.