Why Choose a Board-Certified Dermatologist?

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Skincare concerns are common in today’s society. From acne to wrinkles, skin conditions affect us all. Therefore, finding the right doctor to help treat these, and more serious, conditions is essential. This is where the distinction between board-certified dermatologists and other health care providers becomes important to understand.

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What’s the difference between a dermatologist and a board-certified dermatologist?

First, we need to make an important distinction. While many health care professionals can provide dermatology care, (like a physician’s assistant, a family physician, or a nurse practitioner), board-certified dermatologists are those that are specifically trained to do so. Simply put, a board-certified dermatologist is a specialist in the hair, nail, and skin that has done additional training on top of their general medical training.

To become a dermatologist, one completes four years of medical school after their undergraduate degree. Then, they complete a dermatology residency (a one year internship followed by 3 years of dermatology specific training). A board-certified dermatologist then takes an additional exam that verifies that they understand and know how to treat conditions of the hair, nail, and skin appropriately. Once they have passed the exam, they become a board-certified dermatologist.

What training does a board-certified dermatologist have? Is there additional training between residency and the test?

Even though there is no requirement for additional training between the dermatology residency and the board certification exam, your residency must be completed through an accredited program even to be able to sit for the board certification test.

There are specific residency programs throughout the country that have gone through the accreditation process to ensure that they are correctly training their residents so that they are prepared to take this board certifying test. That’s why no additional training is required. Completing a residency in an accredited program prepares you for your certification.

Why choose a board-certified dermatologist? Why is board certification important?

Board certification is important for dermatologists to make sure that you as a patient are seeing a health care provider that has gone through all of the appropriate training and has shown competency in that training. That’s why board certification matters. Passing the certification exam demonstrates competency in training. As a patient, you should feel more comfortable and confident in the care you receive from a board-certified dermatologist because you can trust that they have gone through the training to appropriately diagnose and treat the health concerns associated with your hair, nails, and skin.

What should I look for when choosing a dermatologist?

When choosing a dermatologist, look for an office that has board-certified dermatologists. Also, look for the letters FAAD (Fellow of the American Academy of Dermatologists). This designation is only for physicians, meaning only M.D.s and D.O.s can receive it.

So when you’re looking to choose your dermatologist, make sure that you select a physician with these letters after their name. When you’re looking for a physician, I would also recommend that if there are other providers in practice (like physician’s assistants or nurse practitioners), check they are working directly with the physician, to ensure they can correctly diagnose and treat your skin, hair, and nail issues.

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What conditions do dermatologists treat?

There are over 3000 conditions that dermatologists learn throughout their training. Most commonly, we treat psoriasis, acne, and skin cancer. We treat all types of inflammatory conditions of the skin, too. We are also the experts in hair and nail diseases. For example, we treat different types of alopecia or hair loss. We also treat nail conditions. For instance, we treat nail infections, cancers underlying the nail, and many other nail conditions. So there’s a whole vast variety of skin conditions that dermatologists treat.

How do I know I need to see a dermatologist? How do I know I need specialty care?

Identifying if you need specialty care may start with your primary care doctor. Your primary care physician may evaluate you and recommend that you seek the attention of a specialist. Or, if you’ve had a skin condition being treated and isn’t improving, that’s a reason to seek a dermatologist. Any time you see something new, a new lesion that’s growing or changing, or something that is just a little bit different than what you’re used to seeing on your body, you should arrange to see a dermatologist.

What services does a board-certified dermatologist provide?

Often, the care provided between a board-certified dermatologist and a non-board-certified dermatologist or another provider level is not necessarily different. It isn’t that board-certified dermatologists have additional treatments or tools to provide care. The difference is the quality of education and a board-certified dermatologist’s background. We know when to use a specific treatment or how to diagnose a particular condition, and we have demonstrated that competency by passing the board exam. Many other providers become very good at diagnosing and treating skin diseases, however it can be difficult to learn conditions that you have not seen or been tested on, this is where board certified dermatologists remain the experts.

Skin disease is not always simply a skin disease. If you’ve completed the appropriate training, you know that the condition may be more complex when working with a patient than the immediate symptom that brought the patient in. The symptom or illness they are suffering from may be connected to an underlying problem, or something internal may be going on. When you’re appropriately trained, you know how to look for that, whereas non-board-certified dermatologists may not even realize they are missing a vital piece of a diagnosis or condition because they don’t have the specialized training that a board-certified dermatologist does.

How can I find a board-certified dermatologist?

How can you find a board-certified dermatologist? You can simply go to find-a-derm.aad.org, which is the website for the American Academy of Dermatology. They list all of the fellows (every dermatologist who has passed their exam and become board-certified).

You can also look for physicians in your area. Look at your insurance plan and search for a dermatologist near you; just remember to look for those letters FAAD after their name to ensure they are board-certified.

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