Michigan dermatologist's passion for helping others brings medical career full circle

September 1, 2012

Barbara Mathes, M.D., started her healthcare career as an emergency room nurse. She remembers answering medical residents' questions, and the residents would tell her she might as well go into medicine. Her reply? "One day I think I will." So started a multifaceted professional life in dermatology, which has included private practice, teaching, industry work, research and more.

Key Points

Barbara Mathes, M.D., started her healthcare career as an emergency room nurse. She remembers answering medical residents' questions, and the residents would tell her she might as well go into medicine.

Her reply? "One day I think I will."

So started a multifaceted professional life in dermatology, which has included private practice, teaching, industry work, research and more.

"I've always been interested in the humane part of medicine. I think that's why I got into medicine in the first place," she says.

Dr. Mathes says the current dissatisfaction with medicine stems, in part, from losing focus on the patient-centered model of care.

"I found I was happiest when I went back to my roots, which was caring about people. That is as opposed to caring about billing and codes and EMRs, whether a drug is on formulary," she says.

Disseminating derm

Dr. Mathes says that she plans to complete her dissertation and add D.M.H. to her credentials in 2013. She says she will use the new knowledge she has gained from the degree in her AAD post to promote dermatology to physicians of all specialties.

"I hope to integrate my learning ... to teach other physicians at professional meetings (as well as) ... medical students and residents. I have been involved in medical humanities CME projects with journals and would like to do more of that," she says.

Dr. Mathes teaches internists at American College of Physicians meetings and serves on multidisciplinary committees of the United States Medical Licensing Exam and National Board of Medical Examiners.

As clinical associate professor in dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania, she teaches medical students and dermatology residents.

It's all relative

Her many roles as a dermatologist has helped Dr. Mathes relate to physicians in practice, academia and industry, she says.

Dr. Mathes, who worked for pharmaceutical companies in clinical research and medical affairs and was in private practice in Michigan and Pennsylvania for several years, has also been active in professional dermatology organizations, including the Women's Dermatologic Society.

The professional roads traveled, she says, have led her to go back to school to relearn the essence of what drew her to the profession and healthcare in the first place: caring for people.

Born: Detroit, 1950

Medical degree: College of Human Medicine, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Mich.

Internship: Butterworth Hospital, Grand Rapids, Mich.

Residency, dermatology: Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit

Hobbies: Hiking and all types of outdoor activities; being in nature, especially at her cottage on Walloon Lake, Mich.; reading; film; and anything with family

Family: Married 35 years to Patrick Alguire, M.D., an internist and senior vice president for education at the American College of Physicians; three sons; two grandsons