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What is a Dermatologist?

A Dermatologist is a qualified medical specialist who has obtained years of post-medical degree training to specialize in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of skin disease and skin cancers (dermatology).

A Dermatologist must become a doctor first (MD), complete 5 years of additional training, and then pass dermatology examinations. In Canada, a doctor who passes these examinations will receive their fellowship or residency in dermatology by the Royal College of Physicians of Canada, signified by the letters FRCP. In the US, Board certified / eligible is the term used for this designation.  Dr. Taraska wrote and passed both her Canadian & American Dermatology examinations in 1998.

One person in ten consults a general practitioner because of a skin concern. The family doctor may decide to seek confirmation of a diagnosis and refer that patient to a Dermatologist.

What can your Dermatologist do for you?

  • Dermatologists are experts in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of skin cancers and skin diseases.
  • Dermatologists treat patients of all ages, from babies and children to adolescents and adults.
  • Dermatologists specialize in the management of skin problems such as acne, eczema, psoriasis, skin infections, hair and nail disorders, occupational dermatitis, and skin cancer.
  • Dermatologists provide advice concerning skin health, and treat cosmetic problems of the skin.

For more information on common skin concerns treated at The Derm Centre, please go to:

What advanced medical training do they receive?

After a 4 years of medical school, every dermatologist-in-training or residency receives five years of advanced dermatology training to gain expertise to become a medical specialist in the following areas:

  • Basic science of the skin-knowledge of the skin, its appendages, and mucous membranes that are both normal and diseased;
  • making comprehensive scientifically-based diagnosis and treatment plans for   skin disorders and diseases, including systemic and infectious disease manifestations on the skin;
  • diagnosis, research methodology, data presentation, and analysis considering gender, cultural, and ethnic  influences;
  • counselling patients on prevention of skin diseases, identifying risk factors, genetic causes, and environmental concerns;
  • maintaining a professional attitude in all aspects of patient care;
  • reviewing and critically assessing current dermatology literature to enhance the diagnosis, investigation, and management of skin disorders and diseases.

The five years of additional training is divided as follows:

  • 2 years of basic clinical training which must include a minimum of 12 months of internal medicine and 3 months of pediatrics;
  • 2 years of approved residency training in dermatology which must include a minimum of 1 year in a general hospital;
  • 1 additional year of training in approved residency training, clinical or basic research related to dermatology, or full time training in pathology.

What services and/or procedures can they perform?

A Dermatologist has knowledge and competence in the following areas:

  • performing dermatologic surgery, including anesthesia, electrosurgery, cryosurgery, nail surgery, biopsy, and excisional surgery
  • laser surgery
  • cryosurgery
  • topical and systemic pharmacotherapy microbiology
  • procedures in allergy and immunology
  • clinical pathology
  • dermatopathology

Once fully trained, Dermatologists combine a balance of clinical skills, technical skills, and knowledge to provide the best treatment to their patients.

With this background and knowledge, Dermatologists are singularly qualified to diagnose and treat the wide variety of skin illnesses and conditions, to care for your skin and to help you prevent skin diseases and skin cancers.

A dermatologist is YOUR skin expert!

Make sure you see a Dermatologist and not someone who states they are a skin expert.  Check to see if they have an MD, FRCP in dermatology; if not, they are NOT your skin expert. Some doctors use the phrase skin specialist or interest in skin diseases but this may not be a dermatologist.

The Royal College of Physicians of Canada

In recognition of completing the advanced training required to become a Dermatologist, Dermatologists are certified with the designation of Fellow of The Royal College of Physicians of Canada (FRCP). The College provides the following functions:

  • prescribes the requirements for specialty education in 60 areas of medical, surgical and laboratory medicine
  • accredits specialty residency programs
  • assesses the acceptability of residents’ education
  • conducts certifying examinations
  • assures a high standard of specialist care through its Maintenance of Certification Program
  • promotes high standards of professional and ethical conduct among its members

The FRPC designation that appears after your doctor’s name (example: Dr. Victoria Taraska, MD, FRCP) means you can be assured that your Dermatologist has received the training necessary to properly diagnose and treat your skin, hair or nail condition or disease.

Dr. Taraska sits on the sub-specialty committee which reviews all the dermatology residency programs in Canada for the Royal College of Physicians and surgeons of Canada and has done so since 2009.

Ongoing Education in Dermatology

Continuing Medical Education (CME) is an ongoing process that helps Dermatologists maintain competence and learn about new advances and techniques in their field. This is accomplished through special courses, participation in symposia, lectures and seminars organised by certified educational institutions.  This professional development supports a wide range of areas including:

  • patient treatment
  • clinical education
  • practice management
  • ethical decision-making
  • evidence-based care
  • managed care principles.

In Canada, certification is provided by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. The College is responsible for the development and implementation of all certifying examinations in each specialty other than Family Medicine. Specialist physicians who join the Royal College as Fellows maintain their knowledge, skills, competence and performance through participating in the Maintenance of Certification Program. For each five year cycle, Fellows of the College are required to document 400 credits, with a minimum of 40 credits obtained in each year of the cycle.