Physician's profile: Making connections: 'Happenstance' opens path for New Orleans dermatologist

November 1, 2008

Erin Boh, M.D., Ph.D., professor and chairman of dermatology at Tulane University Health Sciences Center, New Orleans, says her life has been a series of seamless connections - or, as she puts it, happenstance.

"My whole life, all I wanted to do was to get a Ph.D.," Dr. Boh says. "To me, it was the ultimate in education and intellect."

Her road to a doctoral degree was set. Dr. Boh, who finished her undergraduate degree at Auburn University, Auburn, Ala., a year early, went to live with her father one December before starting graduate school to study entomology at another university the following September.

Dr. Schor became his employee's mentor and friend, offering to pay for Dr. Boh's education if she would stay at Tulane and earn the coveted Ph.D. there.

She stayed.

"So, I got my Ph.D., and that made me happy. But I could not get a job. I was sitting at coffee one day ... complaining to one of the neurophysiologists, and he said, 'Go to medical school and you will have a job,'" Dr. Boh says.

She did, and it felt right.

"The third day of medical school, I remember going up in the elevator to my class, and I thought this is exactly what I was supposed to do my whole life," Dr. Boh tells Dermatology Times.

Finding her calling

Dr. Boh has since developed a strong background in psoriatic and psoriatic arthritis research. She says that her research work as a doctoral student paved the way. She studied free radicals, which are commonly generated by sunlight and sun exposure.

Dr. Boh later accepted the post of director of Tulane's phototherapy center, treating primarily psoriasis, some chronic eczemas and cutaneous T-cell lymphoma.

Dr. Boh says that one of the most important lessons she has learned about treating psoriasis is its undeniable individuality. There is no one drug treatment for all patients.

"Every psoriasis patient has a unique conglomeration of things that go toward contributing to their disease. They might have other diseases; they might have lifestyle issues; they may have financial issues - all of those things come into play," she says.

Dermatologists cannot treat these patients individually without developing a connection beyond one that is purely professional, she says. And the disease lends itself to building that personal connection.

"With psoriasis being a chronic disease, I see patients that I have treated for 15 years. You go through a lot of things with them, dealing with family issues, job changes. Over time, you create a strong and long-lasting connection with patients," she says.

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