Dermatologist looks near and far for opportunities to help people

April 1, 2011

Dermatologist Peggy Fuller, M.D., looks at the world as a vast opportunity to help those in need. In 2005, the Charlotte, N.C., physician embarked on a two-week mission trip to Sri Lanka. The post-tsunami sabbatical wasn't to provide medical care; she was charged with physically helping to build homes and disperse food vouchers to ensure the devastated country's children would be fed.

Key Points

Dermatologist Peggy Fuller, M.D., looks at the world as a vast opportunity to help those in need.

She describes the hours she spent giving out food vouchers as the most orderly and quiet of her life.

Although her role there was not as a physician, Dr. Fuller says she remembers seeing a man whose stitches needed to be removed.

"I removed his stitches and he gave me a lovely, intricate hand-carved cross. All I did was remove his stitches," she says.

A common thread

Giving back means looking near and far for opportunities, according to Dr. Fuller.

She paid her way through medical school with a National Health Service Corps scholarship. In exchange for the scholarship money, Dr. Fuller agreed to work for four years with female prisoners at the Federal Bureau of Prisons in Lexington, Ky. While there, she became the HIV/AIDS coordinator.

"There were many women who were extraordinarily sick from around the world," she says. "It was on the cusp of the HIV/AIDS epidemic."

After completing a residency in internal medicine but before starting her dermatology residency in 1994, Dr. Fuller took a year sabbatical to work with a humanitarian organization developing grassroots AIDS organizations in Kenya and Recife, Brazil.

She has since been on several worldwide mission trips and volunteers close to home with at-risk children. Dr. Fuller says she plans to travel to Vietnam on a medical mission trip later this year.

World in a room

All the time spent away hasn't stopped Dr. Fuller from building a successful general, surgical and cosmetic dermatology practice and business, Esthetics Center for Dermatology ( http://www.HelloHappySkin.com/). She describes her practice as multinational and diverse - just what she likes.

"It's like the United Nations. There are a diverse clientele from all over. We serve people who hail from Bulgaria, India, U.K., South Africa, Jordan, Yemen," she says. "I enjoy spending time with my patients. I love the journeys that life takes us on."

Dr. Fuller, who grew up on a farm in Cedar Grove, Orange County, N.C., says the isolation of rural America only fueled her desire to explore.

"I went to Haiti during my junior year in college," she says. "I was smitten by how small the world was. From there, I knew that I wanted to be an international citizen of the world."