Mover & Shaker

February 1, 2007

From the outside, it looks as if there are not enough minutes in the day for Shelley Sekula Gibbs, M.D., a dermatologist who practices in Houston.

Her life is full as a practicing dermatologist and politician. She is driven by her knack for getting things done.

Dr. Sekula Gibbs is known for rattling the chains of special interests, even in dermatology.

She is vocal about the dangers of indoor tanning and the risks to patients when it comes to unsanitary nail salons.

"Dermatologists are a key to educating our patients about the risks of indoor tanning, and it is incumbent upon us to ask every time we see patients who are over-exposed to the sun if they know that tanning beds are even worse for the skin than natural light," she says. "It is not a popular thing to say. I even have patients who are owners of tanning salons and they say to me, 'I know you do not like my business.' And I say, 'Yes, that's right.' "

While she was a medical officer of the Texas Dermatological Society, the dermatologist helped champion legislation that restricted young people's access to tanning beds in Texas.

"Basically, anyone under the age of 14 is not allowed (in tanning booths) and, if they are under the age of 16, they have to have parental permission," she says.

Dr. Sekula Gibbs has also been at the front lines of policing infection control at nail salons. She says that while dermatologists understand the importance of infection control and the need to sterilize and disinfect instruments with high-level agents, nail salon operators are not trained in microbiology and often do not understand that just because instruments and basins look clean, they might, in fact, be sources of bacterial, viral and fungal transmission.

"I think that dermatologists can take more of a role in working with state cosmetology boards and state agencies that regulate nail salons to require them to use autoclave or high-level disinfectants. Most of these establishments across the country are still using low-level disinfectants. They are using the same types of cleansers that one would use to spray down the kitchen table, and that is really too weak to be effective," Dr. Sekula Gibbs tells Dermatology Times.

She has taken these messages to the media, appearing on national television on such shows as Primetime, 20/20 and Good Morning America.

Opportunity knocks

Dr. Sekula Gibbs says she believes in the American dream, and has made sure to walk through the doors of opportunity when they have opened.

She says her parents were forced to give up their educations early on, but managed to instill the value of education in their daughter. Dr. Sekula Gibbs worked hard through high school, with the goal of paying for her education.