Physician's profile: 'Lucky' dermatologist shares tales of professional joy

September 1, 2008

Douglas N. Naversen, M.D., taught his daughter Laurel Naversen Geraghty that, more than a scientific endeavor, medicine was a human experience, rich with relationships.

Ms. Geraghty writes on the back cover of Dr. Naversen's book, The Derminator or Tales of a Lucky Dermatologist, that her father's ability to touch patient's lives so inspired her that she left a successful career as editor of Glamour and Allure women's magazines to enroll at New York University School of Medicine, in hopes of becoming a dermatologist.

Dr. Naversen's career is rich with life-touching, eye-rolling, belly-laughing, tear-jerking and gut-wrenching experiences - many of which he recounts in the self-published book.

Board-certified in dermatology, dermatopathology and laser medicine and surgery, Dr. Naversen says one of his most memorable patients was John Malkow, whose startling "before" and "after" pictures are shown on the cover of the book.

"John was a 20-year-old army nurse, working in a hospital lab, when he mixed some chemicals together, causing an accidental explosion. The blast blew out both his eyes and disfigured his face with a bizarre, spackled appearance," Dr. Naversen says.

"He lived blind and hideously disfigured for three decades. An eye doctor in Oregon gave him a corneal transplant 30 years after the injury, and he had the miracle of sight.

"But he always imagined that he was a lad at 20, and he looked in the mirror and there was an old guy who looked like his dad - covered in black soot - and he wanted to commit suicide," Dr. Naversen says.

Luckily, John sought Dr. Naversen's help first. After a biopsy showed that the pigment was superficial - only 1 mm from the stratum corneum, Dr. Naversen did a laser test firing with a Q-switched laser, which revealed beautiful, flesh-colored skin.

"I said, 'John, I think we can help you,'" Dr. Naversen says.

Thirty-five treatments later (with the VersaPulse C [Lumenis] and the MedLite C6 [HOYA ConBio] Q-switched Nd:YAG lasers), Mr. Malkow - who had lived with the disfigurement for a good part of his life - emerged a handsome, happy man, Dr. Naversen says.

Tattoo removal

Dr. Naversen, assistant clinical professor, department of family practice, Oregon Health Sciences University, continues to use the power of laser light to give people back their lives. His extensive laser practice in Medford, Ore., is a referral center from around the state and beyond for people with all kinds of difficult-to-remove tattoos.

Dr. Naversen says there is a story attached to every one of those tattoos.

"I just started on the gang tattoo program for a four-county area. The kids and adults that have gang tattoos on visible locations, such as their faces, arms, hands or necks, or swear words or Nazi insignias - they are unemployable until they have them removed."

Dr. Naversen removes the tattoos for free, but gang members that are in the program are required to volunteer their time at local nonprofit organizations in order to earn the tattoo removal.

"They do 32 hours of community service before we ever see them, and we charge them 10 hours of community service per laser session. It has been a win-win. If you give it to them for nothing, they do not appreciate it," Dr. Naversen says.

One woman, Dr. Naversen remembers, had the "f-word" tattooed on the top of her right hand when she was 16. Ten years later, she wanted to get a job and to get off welfare. After graduating from the tattoo removal program, the woman is now gainfully employed.

Dr. Naversen also tells the story of a young man who came shackled, straight from the detention center, to have his gang tattoos removed.

The man had made attempts to turn his life around in prison, but could only move forward so far with the constant reminder of his gang affiliation.

"When he gets out of jail, he will no longer have the gang tattoos," Dr. Naversen says.