Just as a cardiologist is a medical specialist with qualifications to diagnose and treat various heart problems, a dermatologist is a medical specialist with qualifications to diagnose and treat various types of skin, hair and nail disorders. The Australasian College of Dermatologist is the only Australian Medical Council (AMC) accredited college in Australia to train dermatologists. Dermatologists have the letters FACD after their name, indicating their Fellowship of the Australasian College of Dermatologists. Other practitioners are sometimes seen to use the word ‘specialist’ (or similar words to the effect) in relation to their various services in skin. This can be confusing and misleading (refer to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency guidelines). Always check the credentials of a clinic or practitioner to see if they are a true registered medical specialist (click here to see a list of medical specialities).
Dermatologists are in the best position to understand you and your skin condition and provide specialist treatment where required.
What problems do dermatologists manage?
Dermatologists are highly trained doctors and experts in the diagnosis and management of all skin, hair and nail disorders in patients of all ages. This includes common presentations such as skin cancer and skin checks, acne, eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, itchy skin, rashes, ageing skin and other cosmetic problems. Dermatologists are amongst world leaders in the development of laser and cosmetic skin treatments.
The path to becoming a dermatologist
Becoming a dermatologist requires completion of medical school followed by at least two years of working in public hospitals. Experience is gained in internal medicine, emergency medicine, paediatric medicine and surgery prior to commencing training in dermatology. Entrance into dermatology training is highly competitive.
Australian dermatology training is a four-year programme. Trainees are rotated through major hospitals and institutions within busy dermatology clinics. Strict assessment occurs during the four years of training, including an exam in the first year, ongoing clinical and surgical assessments during training and intensive competency examinations held over a total of six days at the end of training. It is only on successful completion of all professional and training requirements that a doctor can be referred to as a dermatologist or skin specialist. It takes on average 13-15 years of medical training to become a dermatologist.
Qualities of a dermatologist
As medical doctors, dermatologists are bound by ethical standards and professional guidelines set by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA). Most dermatologists engage in ongoing research to add to the body of knowledge in dermatology and develop improved methods of treating skin disease. Many dermatologists also hold public hospital positions to treat rare and serious skin conditions as well as teaching future generations of dermatologists. Dermatologists also play an active role in teaching and upskilling general practitioner’s by way of communication regarding referred patients and more formal training programmes and workshops.
To remain accredited, dermatologists must meet continued professional development (CPD) targets as set by the Australasian College of Dermatologists and Australian Medical Council (AMC). This ensures that all dermatologists in Australia remain up to date with the latest research developments and are competent in managing skin problems.