New York dermatologist relishes family, friend and patient interactions

September 1, 2011

Diane Berson, M.D., lives for life's interactions. "I just enjoy interactions on a daily basis, whether that's with my patients, my family, my colleagues or my friends," she says.

Key Points

Diane Berson, M.D., lives for life's interactions.

Her father, Harold Berson, M.D., might have had something to do with her genuine appreciation for people. "My dad, who was a psychiatrist, was a very gregarious, friendly kind of guy," Dr. Berson says. "At the end of a taxi ride, he knew the taxi driver's whole life story."

A twist of fate

"I was at eye level when the plane hit the World Trade Center. I was actually doing a surgical procedure on a patient ... and we heard the plane go by us," she says. "In another minute, we saw the fire in the first tower. The second plane came around, and it sheered through the second building, right before our eyes."

The doctors and patients left the building on 9-11, only to find chaos below. The dermatology practice in the Empire State Building slowly shut down after that fateful day. Patients were fearful about going to the 78th floor (the same floor the plane first hit in the World Trade Center). So the dermatologists retired or started new practices.

Dr. Berson practiced for the next four years in a full-time academic environment, with Cornell University. She started her Manhattan private practice in 2006.

Destined for dermatology

Today, Dr. Berson's interests span general and cosmetic dermatology. She treats skin cancer and melanoma and lectures at professional meetings predominately about acne, a condition that plagued her as a teen.

Dr. Berson remembers the day she realized she wanted to be a dermatologist. A medical student doing an elective in the dermatology department at NYU, Dr. Berson was in the emergency room at Bellevue Hospital when a patient with multisystem organ failure and a rash arrived.

"The dermatology consult was called in ... and in 30 seconds said it was secondary syphilis," Dr. Berson says. "It was right. I thought it was amazing that ... it was the dermatologist in the emergency room who made the diagnosis for this very ill patient."

Staying busy

Some of Dr. Berson's most rewarding work, she says, has been with the WDS. "As a result of my involvement, I have made very close friends, and our husbands even get along well. When I attend conferences, I am fortunate to be able to spend time with good friends," she says.

As president of WDS, Dr. Berson is involved in conference calls to manage the organization's more than 20 committees and task forces. And she works to ensure the WDS will be able to continue its work in a tough funding environment.

When she completes her year-long presidency in March 2012, Dr. Berson says she plans to spend more time with family and friends. "I haven't had a lot of free personal time," she says. "I happen to be a very energetic, and I need to learn to relax."

Diane Berson, M.D.

Born: Brooklyn, N.Y.

Medical degree: New York University School of Medicine, New York

Internship, internal medicine: Bellevue Hospital New York

Residency: Chief resident, Downstate Medical Center, Brooklyn (now called SUNY Downstate Medical Center)

Hobbies: Being with family, boating, exercising (yoga, bicycling and swimming), dancing

Family: Husband, Mark Lebowitz, M.D., an ophthalmologist; two children.