Is there a dermatologist shortage?

April 1, 2005

Is there a shortage of dermatologists? While dermatologists have not come to a consensus about whether demand for their services exceeds availability, most agree there is a distribution problem — with some areas of the country underserved.

Those localized shortages raise questions about how to solve this problem. For instance, what role should the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) play in helping place needed dermatologists in these areas?

"Statistics show that we are just about at - and slightly below - replacement levels. But quantity is one thing, quality is a different one. When I say quality, I don't mean how bright the doctors are. I mean what they are going to do when they get out of training. We are replacing medical dermatologists with more cosmetically oriented dermatologists."

A practitioner for 32 years and a volunteer lecturer at Dartmouth Medical School, Dr. Danby says that while patients can get an appointment in Boston, New York or Los Angeles in a week, it can take months to see a dermatologist in more remote areas.

"But we don't just need more dermatologists, we need dermatologists who are willing to practice in underserved areas," he says.

"We had one grand old surgeon who practiced there for years and a local kid came back and stayed because he has roots there - but we've had probably three or four other doctors who came to Paris and stayed anywhere from six months to a year during my eight years there.

Dr. Herron says it is ironic because there is an internist who practices in Paris, but he can not find a dermatology residency.

"He would make an excellent dermatologist, but a training slot is hard to find," Dr. Herron says.