Editorial: Looking to the future: Unselfishness, volunteerism define dermatology's next generation

It seems that over the past several decades, there has been an apparent increased level of concern about the lack of work ethic and selfish motivation of next generation, and whether or not the world will survive the laid-back, "me first" attitude that seem all too prevalent in the younger generation today.

Key Points

It seems that over the past several decades, there has been an apparent increased level of concern about the lack of work ethic and selfish motivation of the next generation and whether or not the world will survive the laid-back, "me first" attitude that seems all too prevalent in the younger generation today.

However, to my great satisfaction and pleasure, I have recently experienced multiple examples that have led me to the conclusion that we have nothing to worry about, and that our future is in good hands, indeed.

To illustrate that point, I'd like to provide several examples that have come to my recent attention (and almost certainly to virtually every other member of the academic community), as I am asked at this time of the year to review multiple curriculum vitae and read many personal statements of senior medical students who are applying for internships and residencies, most often for me, in dermatology.

I should say upfront, without significant bias, that most of the medical students I've come to know throughout my academic career are incredibly intelligent, decent, honest "kids" - another reflection of my 'baby boomerism' and advancing age, I'm afraid - who are deeply interested in learning how to care for their patients to the best of their ability.

I'm not sufficiently naïve to believe that there aren't some students who have less-than-noble ideals for pursuing a medical degree, just as there are in every profession. However, it just seems that most medical students had the right motivation to enter our profession and, to my relief, have maintained the "right stuff" during their four years of schooling.

So, here are some personal examples taken directly from the personal statements of fourth-year medical students who have asked me to write a letter of support for the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS).

Camp Discovery

This first student had the chance to attend Camp Discovery as a senior student and wrote the following about his experiences: "I had a chance to look over the entire group of campers at Camp Discovery, the American Academy of Dermatology's summer camp for kids with skin disease, as I stood waiting to find out if I won the award for being the 'dirtiest' counselor. My campers had covered me from head-to-toe with chocolate pudding, flour, sand and candy wrappers for the competition.

"I reflected for a moment about Casey, a camper who suffers from congenital ichthyosiform erythroderma. As we became friends, I was able to appreciate the impact that skin disease can have on people's everyday lives and how those people respect and rely upon their dermatologists to help them deal with those problems.

"This experience at Camp Discovery confirmed again for me that my decision to become a doctor was indeed the right one."

Serving the 'underserved'

Another student wrote about his goals for practicing dermatology in the future: "My plan, following completion of dermatology residency, is to continue dedicating time and resources in volunteer activities, to continue helping to serve the underserved people in my community and, also, internationally.

"As a product of a rural upbringing, I am particularly interested in providing care to underserved rural populations, and envision myself practicing dermatology in a rural setting."