Well-known dermatologist places strong focus on caring for needy patients

September 1, 2010

After more than 50 years as a dermatologist, Denny Tuffanelli, M.D., considers it an honor and a privilege to care for patients. He spends five-and-a-half days a week at a group dermatology practice in San Francisco, where he practices with his daughter, general dermatologist Lucia Tuffanelli, M.D. The patriarch, clinical professor emeritus at the University of California, San Francisco, continues to see consults at four hospitals.

Key Points

He spends five-and-a-half days a week at a group dermatology practice in San Francisco, where he practices with his daughter, general dermatologist Lucia Tuffanelli, M.D. The patriarch, clinical professor emeritus at the University of California, San Francisco, continues to see consults at four hospitals.

An eye for complex cases

In his decorated career, Dr. Tuffanelli has earned many awards, including the Dermatology Foundation's Clark W. Finnerud Award for teaching and writing by a clinician. The United Scleroderma Foundation bestowed its prestigious Messenger of Hope award on the dermatologist, and he is a member of the American Lupus Hall of Fame. Dr. Tuffanelli seems to hold a special sense of pride about the Finnerud honor.

"I'm proud of that, because it stresses that private practitioners can contribute to the teaching of our residents and can contribute to research. It's a lot more difficult now than it was when I did it, because of time constraints and overhead problems and all kinds of things that I didn't have to deal with," he says.

Paying it forward

The dermatologist's hope is that others - even dermatologists outside the academic setting - will continue to pursue interests in complex diseases.

"Dermatologists have so much to offer. In many of the autoimmune diseases, the skin manifestations are the major parts of these diseases," he says. "I urge our brilliant students not to isolate themselves from sick patients and to contribute to the care of medically indigent patients and to do general medicine."

Not one to turn any patient away, Dr. Tuffanelli says it is the doctor's duty to take care of the medically indigent.

"We have always seen free clinic patients and Medicaid patients and others who cannot afford medical care. We always try to see those patients to the best of our ability - even today," he says.

San Francisco is home to a potpourri of people, which makes practicing dermatology even more interesting, he says.

"It's wonderful to deal with people of such diverse backgrounds. I think that part of being a physician is to care for people from all backgrounds to the best of our ability," Dr. Tuffanelli says.

The apple of his eye

Although he's hesitant to focus on himself, Dr. Tuffanelli loves to talk about his granddaughter, skiing sensation Julia Mancuso, who won two silver medals in the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics (in the downhill and combined events) and a gold in the 2006 Turin Winter Olympics.

"Skiing was an integral part of our family's lives. I was a ski bum in Aspen in college and skied on the Stanford ski team," he says.

Dr. Tuffanelli is one of Ms. Mancuso's biggest fans, and watched in the stands as she achieved Olympic victories. His patients were behind Ms. Mancuso, as well, rooting for her while watching her on TV.

"I've enjoyed seeing my patients' reactions to Julia," he says.

Denny Tuffanelli, M.D.

Born:
Pasadena, Calif., 1929

Medical degree:
Stanford University
Stanford, Calif.

Internship:
University of Chicago
Chicago

Dermatology residency/fellowship:
Mayo Clinic
Rochester, Minn.

Hobbies:
Bicycling, skiing and tennis

Family:
Wife, Sheila; five children; 11 grandchildren