Making a difference: Priceless

June 1, 2007

When Jenny Kim, M.D., Ph.D., decided that kids with serious skin disorders, unlike some children with other types of diseases, were not getting the attention they needed, it touched her heart - so she did something about it.

When Jenny Kim, M.D., Ph.D., decided that kids with serious skin disorders, unlike some children with other types of diseases, were not getting the attention they needed, it touched her heart - so she did something about it.

She helped to launch a summer camp in California, where some 70 children with an array of debilitating skin disorders come for an all-expenses-paid week of play and to forget about their physical, cosmetic and emotional challenges, all under medical supervision and with superb skincare.

Dr. Kim, assistant professor of dermatology, David Geffen School of Medicine at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), helped found and has volunteered her time for the planning, fundraising and implementation of the week-long Camp Wonder in Livermore, Calif., every year since it began in 2001. She says that she and the rest of the volunteer medical staff work from sunup to after sundown, taking care of the medical needs of the 70 to 80 children who attend; the staff gladly toils away on things such as extensive dressing changes for the 20-plus children with epidermolysis bullosa who attend.

For this work, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) honored Dr. Kim with its Dermatology Leadership Circle for Volunteerism award in 2006.

The camp, according to Dr. Kim, is an effort to put the spotlight on skin disease.

"Even in the hospital setting, dermatologic conditions are sometimes considered not as critical in comparison to heart disease, for example. People with skin disease are often unintentionally overlooked, and their diseases, which can be so severe, may be deemed somehow not serious - until one works with children such as those with epidermolysis bullosa, pemphigus or psoriasis, that is."

Dr. Kim and her colleague, Stefani Takahashi, M.D., director of pediatric dermatology at UCLA, cofounded Camp Wonder with Francesca Tenconi (a pemphigus patient since childhood), who started the Children's Skin Disease Foundation (CSDF). Dr. Kim and her medical staff organize and run the medical portion of the camp and also help to raise money to pay for the campers. A philanthropist has donated the use of a medical campground in Livermore, Calif., where the camp is held each year for one week. Camp Wonder is the only camp for children with severe skin conditions on the West Coast.

Camp Wonder is possible due to the many dedicated staff who volunteer their time. Dr. Kim says that she works with some of the most compassionate students, residents, nurses and doctors.

"But in the end, I think we get at least as much out of this as the campers," Dr. Kim tells Dermatology Times.

Pulse of basic derm research

Dr. Kim is one of the few dermatologists to specialize in Mohs surgery, as well as basic science research.

While at the bench, she focuses on studying the skin's immune response.

She has been published extensively and has been honored often for her research. Perhaps one of the areas for which she is best known is for having demonstrated that Propionibacterium acnes can activate toll-like receptors, found on the innate cells, to induce inflammation in acne.

"My work and the research at UCLA dermatology division demonstrates that toll-like receptors are important in skin disease," she says.