Dermatologists As Surgeons

When I informed a patient earlier this week that I would be happy to surgically remove his skin cancer, I was surprised by his response. “I didn’t know you were a surgeon,” he said. He was under the misunderstanding that dermatologists did not perform surgery.

Most dermatologists do not perform surgery in a hospital operating room, but we do perform a lot of cutaneous surgery.

How much? According to data from Medicare and Medicaid:

  • Dermatologists performed more excisions of malignant skin lesions than any other specialty.
  • Dermatologists performed 454,012 excisions of malignant lesions in 2004 (the latest data available). This was four times more than the next closest specialty, Plastic Surgery, which performed 112,412 excisions of malignant lesions.
  • Dermatologists also performed more benign and malignant excisions, complex skin repairs, flaps, dermabrasions, laser treatments, chemical peels, and Mohs procedures of any specialty.

Certainly surgeons in Plastic Surgery, General Surgery, Oculoplastics, and Ear, Nose and Throat Surgery are trained in skin procedures and have expertise and training in areas outside of dermatology.

But do dermatologists do surgery? Yep. We sure do.

2 thoughts on “Dermatologists As Surgeons”

  1. Dermatologists are not surgeons! I am unaware of any medical school, residency program or other training program for dermatologists where the department of dermatology falls under surgery if is is not a department of its own. Usually dermatology is classified as a medical subspeciality. I am not stating that dermatolgists are incapable from performing skin excisions, etc.

    In the United States, any licensed physician can legally hang out a shingle and proclaim that he/she is a surgeon. Unfortunately, there is nothing illegal about that. However, what sets one physician apart from others is if that have privileges to perform that procedure in a hospital.

  2. EBD-
    Dermatologic Surgery is a recognized specialty with fellowship, college, journal, etc.

    The title of surgeon is hard earned; only a select few are qualified and persistent enough make it. To say dermatologists are on equal footing with those who stand in the OR is unfair, I agree. I doubt many dermatologist try to pass themselves off as such. But for cutaneous surgery, many patients would be best treated by a qualified dermatologic surgeon, irrespective of his or her hospital privileges. The data above shows, in fact, that dermatologist perform more cutaneous surgery than any specialty.

    Thanks for coming by and for your comment.

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