40 years of champions in dermatology

Dec 04, 2019, 12:00am

In the decades that Dermatology Times reporters have covered the specialty, we’ve had the pleasure of profiling the specialty’s champions. Some shared their professional accomplishments, while others revealed unknown aspects of their personal lives. Here just some of the interesting tidbits from years’ past.

In the decades that Dermatology Times reporters have covered the specialty, we’ve had the pleasure of profiling the specialty’s champions. Some shared their professional accomplishments, while others revealed unknown aspects of their personal lives. Here just some of the interesting tidbits from years’ past.

When we interviewed Diane R. Baker, M.D., for Dermatology Times’ Jan. 2007 edition, she was about to become president of the American Academy of Dermatology. While being AAD president was the most visible of her 30-year dermatology career, it was only one of more than 60 political appointments and memberships in her career.

Mover and shaker Shelley Sekula Gibbs, M.D., shared her life as a dermatologist and politician. Among her feats, Houston-based Dr. Sekula Gibbs helped to fund 12 new federally qualified health centers in low-income neighborhoods serving the uninsured. She helped pass an ordinance against secondhand smoke in the workplace and legislation restricting young people’s access to tanning beds in Texas, according to Dermatology Times’ Feb. 2007 profile

In a profile published April 2007, James H. Beckett, M.D., shared how growing up on the California coast in the 1950s as a surfer influenced his personal and professional life. He was 60 years old at the time of the interview and still surfing. Dr. Beckett was known as the surfing dermatologist and taught kids and adults about sun safety while promoting the surfing lifestyle. It was his way of giving back, he said.

Robert S. Kirsner, M.D., Ph.D., had run five marathons by the time his profile ran in May 2007. That’s including finishing one 26.2 mile course in an impressive 3:36. The then professor of dermatology and vice chair of the department
of dermatology and cutaneous surgery at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine said, “When you run, there is often the desire to give up, and you have to overcome your body’s desire to quit. I think it is discipline that helps you get through.”

Dermatologist Ruskin Lines, M.D., created Captain Cutaneum, the cancer fighting superhero who strove to teach kids about sun and skin cancer before those kids reached puberty. If children in elementary school could learn about the different types of cloud formations, they certainly could distinguish basal cell, squamous cell and melanoma, he reasoned. “I just thought it would be fun to visit schools dressed in a super suit as a comic book style character,” Dr. Lines said in a Feb. 2008 profile.

Amy S. Paller, M.D., a clinician, educator, researcher, politician, editor, wife and mother, traced her passion for research and fascination with genetic disorders back to childhood. “She kept a scrapbook of clippings from her parents’ Time magazines, highlighting genetic abnormalities in the magazine’s ‘Medicine’ section. By the time we published her profile in June 2008, Dr. Paller had published some 30 collaborative articles looking at the underlying basis of genetic disorders of the skin. Dr. Paller, who was an editor of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology and Journal of Investigative Dermatology, had authored more than 250 papers and written a few books and dozens of chapters.

In 1979, Suzanne M. Connolly, M.D., was the first female dermatologist on staff in the department of dermatology
at Mayo Clinic, Rochester. And when Dermatology Times published her profile in August 2008, Dr. Connolly was the 2008-’09 president of the Women’s Dermatologic Society (WDS). She cited Henry Ford as she assumed the WDS presidency: “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”

Douglas N. Naversen, M.D., taught his daughter Laurel Naversen Geraghty that more than a scientific endeavor, medicine was a human experience, rich with relationships. Geraghty writes on the back cover of Dr. Naversen’s book, The Derminator or Tales of a Lucky Dermatologist, that her father’s ability to touch patient’s lives so inspired her that she left a successful career as editor of Gamour and Allure women’s magazines to enroll at New York University School of Medicine, in hopes of becoming a dermatologist,” according to Dr. Naversen’s profile published Sept. 2008.

Erin Boh, M.D., Ph.D., told Dermatology Times in a profile published Nov. 2008 that her life had been a series of seamless connections. Dr. Boh, who was professor and chairman of dermatology at Tulane University Health Sciences Center, New Orleans at the time, developed a strong background in psoriatic and psoriatic arthritis research. She told Dermatology Times that one of the most important lessons she had learned about treating psoriasis is its undeniable individuality. Every psoriasis patient has a unique conglomeration of things that contribute to their disease. Some have other diseases; they might have lifestyle issues; some have financial issues - all of it comes into play, according to Dr. Boh. Dermatologists cannot treat these patients individually without developing a strong and long-lasting connection beyond one that is purely professional, she said.

While competing in a Judo master’s tournament, Joel E. Holloway, M.D., used a classic move to throw down his opponent so hard that it knocked out the fellow competitor. Dr. Holloway also happened to be the tournament doctor, so instead of returning to his corner he tended to the competition. In 2008, Dr. Holloway, a 7th-degree black belt in Judo, was inducted into the U.S.A. Martial Arts Hall of Fame, according to his Dec. 2008 profile.

At 78 years old, Perry Robins, M.D., was performing more than 1,000 surgical procedures annually. The busy dermatologist had founded about a dozen organizations, including the Skin Cancer Foundation, International Society of Dermatologic Surgery and American College of Mohs Micrographic Surgery. He had served as president of four societies, including the American Society of Dermatologic Surgery, in addition to the societies he founded and lectured (in four languages) in 34 countries, according to Dr. Robins’ Feb. 2009 profile.

In April 2009, we published a profile on “super sleuth” dermatologist Matthew Zirwas, M.D., who made it his business to explain unexplained rashes. Growing up, he could not help but wonder. He would ask innumerable questions. So, it was odd, during one long car ride on a family trip when the youngster didn’t utter a word. His parents looked in the backseat
of the car and found Dr. Zirwas’s siblings holding him down. His sister had her hand over his mouth. Dr. Zirwas later found his niche as assistant professor of dermatology, residency program director and dermatitis center director at Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, where he could ask (and explain) to his heart’s content.

Charles E. Crutchfield III, M.D., was destined for a career in medicine. He shared in a May 2009 interview that his mother Susan, a family practitioner, was the first black female (and youngest, at age 23) to graduate from the University of Minnesota Medical School in 1963. His father, Charles II, was a nationally recognized obstetrician-gynecologist. Even Dr. Crutchfield’s grandfather, Charles I, was a doctor of sorts. “My grandfather, who at 95 years old is still alive, was a barber. In the old days, barbers were considered physician-like. That is where the barber pole comes from, because they used to do surgery and would hang out the red bloody rags, which meant the surgeon is operating,” Dr. Crutchfield said.

Carol Lee Isaacs, M.D., shared the story of her childhood in an August 2009 profile. She remembered being so poor that she lived with her family in an old army tent eating week-old bread. Dr. Isaacs’ exposure to medicine came as a pediatric patient afflicted with numerous childhood illnesses associated with poverty. When we talked with her, Dr. Isaacs was living the dream. She had a solo practice in St. Helena, the heart of Northern California wine country. She lived on a mountain surrounded by forests and vineyards, with room for her own garden, orchard and vines.

In a Sept. 2009 profile, Hungarian-born dermatologist Judith Hellman, M.D., revealed that she served in the Israeli Air Force and was a classically trained violinist and jazz pianist. She trained in medicine to follow the footsteps of her father, the late Lawrence Hellman, M.D., formerly on the dermatologic faculty of Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York.

Wilma Fowler Bergfeld, M.D., told Dermatology Times in 2010 that almost every time she got involved with an organization, she’d become its president. Those organizations include the AAD. In 2007, Dr. Bergfeld was honored with the prestigious Founders Award, the highest award given by the American Society of Dermatopathology (ASDP). She was simultaneously elected president of the ASDP. Dr. Bergfeld, a pioneer for her work in hair loss, said she would ask herself how she could​ achieve her goals and answer with her motto: Preparation, preparation, preparation.

In a 2010 profile, E. Dorinda Shelley, M.D., talked about her partnership with her beloved late husband and dermatology icon Walter B. Shelley, M.D., Ph.D. At the time of our interview, Dr. Shelley had been retired from practice for 13 years. She was tending to a 9.5-acre farm in a small town outside of Toledo, Ohio. “At the moment, our animal population is down to two donkeys and a llama, a dozen chickens, one turkey and about 30 cats and one dog,” she said. But Dr. Shelley continued to work behind dermatology’s scenes. In 2009 she updated Walter B. Shelley’s autobiography, The Skin Around Me: Adventures in Dermatology, and wrote a chapter about her husband for inclusion in the German book about dermatology legends, Pantheon of Dermatology.

Dermatologist and Cosmetic Surgeon Andrew A. Hendricks, M.D., shared the story of when he first became interested in his family history in a 2010 profile. It was in fourth grade, when a teacher’s assignment turned into a lifelong passion. He knew his family was Dutch and wanted to know more. He said the Dutch role had been overlooked in textbooks so Dr. Hendricks helped to make the Dutch influence come to life by helping to fund, build and design a full-scale replica of the 17th century Dutch ship de Halve Maen, or Half Moon.

By the time C. William Hanke, M.D., M.P.H., was profiled in 2011, the Carmel, Ind., dermatologist had been president of 11 professional societies, the largest of which was AAD. Dr. Hanke also led the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, International Society for Dermatologic Surgery, American College of Mohs Surgery, Association of Academic Dermatologic Surgeons, American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery and others. And that wasn’t all, Dr. Hanke’s curriculum vitae featured his having authored or co-authored more than 400 publications, including 91 book chapters and 20 books.

Gloria Flippin Graham, M.D., told Dermatology Times in a 2011 profile piece that while being interviewed for medical school in the fall of 1956 she was asked why she wanted to go into medicine. Dr. Graham, whose family tree is full of names followed by medical degrees, responded, “Well, if I don’t go into medicine, I have to figure out how to get out of it.”

Nearly 60 years old, Newport Beach, Calif., dermatologist Lt. Col. Dore J. Gilbert, M.D., said he felt good about having served his community. He was on the school board for 29 years. He coached Little League, football and hockey. But he hadn’t served his country and that bothered him. Dr. Gilbert shared the story of his joining the army as a physician in a 2012 profile. His goal was to go to Afghanistan, and he did. Dr. Gilbert did more than his assigned tasks to improve soldiers’ healthcare and tend to things like gunshot wounds, he started a skin cancer-screening clinic. Like so many soldiers, Dr. Gilbert says he didn’t serve to fight for any political ideology. “I went to support the troops - to take care of the young men and women who are doing all the hard work,” he said.

There were also a few icons in the specialty that Dermatology Times profiled after they passed away.

Most recently, Noah Simeon Scheinfeld, M.D., J.D., who died unexpectedly June 3, at age 55. An assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Weill Cornell Medical College, Dr. Scheinfeld was an editor for Journal Drugs & Dermatology, SKINmed, CutisSkin and Aging, Dermatology Online Journal and the American Journal of Clinical Dermatology.

READ MORE: In memoriam: Noah Simeon Scheinfeld, M.D., J.D.

On June 14, dermatologist Neal Bhatia, M.D., wrote this on behalf of the Noah Worcester Dermatological Society:

“Many of us knew Noah as a presence, a true individual, and one of the nicest guys around. We all knew him as a dermatologist, but he also had a law degree with a sparkling CV and more publications and accolades than we can count. Noah was a real doctor. He took care of patients who needed real help, took on serious medical dermatology diseases, and in many ways made it look easy. He was benevolent as a teacher, masterful as a speaker, and prolific as a writer, just to scratch the surface. His legacy in dermatology will be connected to his work in Hidradenitis Suppurativa, but he was one of the earliest pioneers in the cyber age of dermatology as well. The next time you prescribe any biologic agents for HS, you can thank Noah for opening that door for us because he helped patients this way before we even knew it would be an option. 

I always liked Noah, he was kind, he was bubbly, and you always knew he was with us. He was a little quirky, but aren’t we all? And aren’t we going to be worse off without our friend? He came up to me at one of the meetings I was running and said “Neal I want to speak,” and without hesitation I told him “Anything you want my man,” because I knew despite his sometimes off-the-wall behavior, he always brought his best. And we will miss that about him, as well as his innocent smile and kind soul.

When I heard the news of his death, I sat in my office for a few minutes numb - not just because he meant a lot to the society and to dermatology, not just because he was only three years older than me, and not because it was sudden and we may never know the true cause of his passing - but because we lost our friend, and we won’t get to see him again...which is really sad. Please say a few prayers for our lost friend Noah and his family, and for all of us.”

In 2019, Dermatology Times remembered Vic Narurkar, M.D., who died suddenly, days shy of his 51st birthday. Colleagues described the wellknown and respected dermatologist as beloved, brilliant, fun, giving, humble and a pioneer.

READ MORE: Remembering Vic Narurkar, M.D.

“Vic was a prodigy and a genius. He was the original Doogie Houser. He graduated from Brown University at 16 and graduated from Stanford Medical school at age 20. Vic was incredibly humble and didn’t talk much about his age and incredible accomplishments,” said Kathleen M. Welsh, M.D., who met Dr. Narurkar more than 30 years ago when they were first-year dermatology residents residents at Stanford.

Dr. Narurkar’s close friend Patti Pao, founder and CEO of the skincare line Restorsea, told Dermatology Times that Dr. Narurkar didn’t need the money. He practiced for the love of dermatology and in a way that made him proud.

“When you don’t need the money, you make different kinds of decisions. It left him very free to practice the way he wanted to practice. He didn’t have to be beholden to industry; he didn’t have to do all these studies; he didn’t have to be on the podium; he didn’t have to be famous,” Pao says. “What it enabled him to do was completely focus on the things that were important to him, which were giving his patients the best possible care. He performed all of the procedures himself only using products and devices that passed rigorous third-party clinical studies published in major medical journals. I admired him greatly because he just kept his head down, did the best job he could and did what he thought was right - all day every day.”

The specialty lost Fredric S. Brandt, M.D., one of cosmetic dermatology’s most celebrated, accomplished and recognized
physicians, known as “The Baron of Botox,” who took his life April 5, 2015.

Dr. Brandt was 65 and had successful practices in Coral Gables, Fla., and New York City. Roy Geronemus, M.D., worked with Dr. Brandt at their New York City practice for two decades and knew him since 1978, when Dr. Brandt was a dermatology resident at the University of Miami School of Medicine, Miami, Fla.

READ MORE: Farewell to Fredric S. Brandt, M.D.

Dr. Geronemus, who gave a eulogy in honor of Dr. Brandt in New York, says the two were as different as two people can be, but they had a mutual respect and strong friendship. He said that his colleague was a creative genius in addressing the aging face and was distinguished as the world’s biggest user of Botox and fillers.

“He made cosmetic dermatology more scientific,” Dr. Geronemus said. “He put a lot of thought and creativity into applying the science of cosmetic dermatology to the actual implementation. So, he understood what he was using. He understood anatomy. He understood how the injectables would work, appropriately, in such a way that provided a different way of looking at things. Other dermatologists wanted to know his secrets and he freely shared them - he published widely and lectured all over the world. But very few, if any, had Fred’s artistic eye.”

Bursting out in song was something Dr. Brandt did often. He’d sing to patients and, sometimes, they’d sing along. He loved Sinatra and the songs from Carousel. One of his favorites to serenade to patients, a takeoff on Duke Ellington’s doowop classic: “It won’t mean a thing if you don’t get a lift,” according to Dr. Geronemus.