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Comment on MD/PhDs in academic dermatology

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Comment on MD/PhDs in academic dermatology
Barbara Burrall MD

Editor, Dermatology Online Journal
Department of Dermatology, UC Davis

In this issue of Dermatology Online Journal, Wu et al. have presented their data suggesting that MD/PhDs are more likely than MDs to enter careers in academic dermatology. During 2004 to 2007, 5.8 percent of the available dermatology residency positions were held by MD/PhDs. The conclusion that MD/PhDs were 1.63 times more likely to enter a dermatology academic career is heavily based on the assumption that the 5.8 percent figure can be extrapolated to the entire 35-year period (1970-2004). However, the experience of many of us suggests that the presence of MD/PhDs has increased greatly with the increased competitiveness for the small number of dermatology positions. Furthermore, even if retention in academics is increased for MD/PhDs, it is still decidedly low.

Dermatology residency positions are highly desirable for many reasons. The subject matter is diverse and fascinating, the mix of surgical and medical work is refreshing, and we have less on-call night work than many specialties. In addition, because of the great demand for our skills and the small number of available dermatologists, the practice of dermatology in both HMO and private practice has become quite lucrative. Academic programs guarantee a faculty applicant long hours and project funding difficulties and at the same time cannot keep pace with competing salary offers. A dermatologist must enter an academic career for the love of it. How do academic programs attract residents who are going to make that choice?

We hope this article will begin a dialogue in DOJ about the subject of retaining excellent dermatologists in academia. We encourage comments, letters, and additional studies.

© 2008 Dermatology Online Journal