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The Public's Perception of Dermatologists as Surgeons

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Dermatologists perform more cutaneous surgical procedures than any other medical specialists, including plastic surgeons, especially for treating skin cancers, but anecdotal evidence suggests that the public may not identify dermatologists as surgeons. OBJECTIVE

Our study was designed to assess the public's perception of expertise in surgery of the skin of three medical specialties: dermatology, plastic surgery, and general surgery. We also investigated whether the physician's specialty biases people when they assess the cosmetic appearance of a surgical scar. MATERIALS AND METHODS

We administered an institutional review board–approved survey to individuals at the Emory Student Center and the Emory Dermatology Clinic. Participants rated the perceived skills and training of the different medical specialties and scored the cosmetic appearance of 16 surgical scars created by a fellowship-trained Mohs surgeon labeled as the work of different specialists. RESULTS

Results from 467 participants were overwhelmingly in favor of plastic surgeons (p<.001). The physician's specialty did not bias participants in assessing the cosmetic appearance of surgical scars. CONCLUSION

The study population had greater confidence in the surgical skills of plastic surgeons than in those of dermatologists, although participants were objective in rating the cosmesis of surgical scars, regardless of the purported surgeon's specialty. Although dermatologic surgeons must continually refine our surgical expertise, we must also educate the public about the breadth and depth of our work.

The authors have indicated no significant interest with commercial supporters.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Vanguard Dermatology and Skin Cancer Specialists, Colorado Springs, Colorado 2: Hailey, Brody, Casey & Wray, MD, PC Dermatology and Dermatologic Surgery, Atlanta, Georgia 3: Department of Dermatology, State University of New York at Stony Brook, Stony Brook, New York 4: Department of Dermatology 5: Center for Outcomes Research, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia

Publication date: March 1, 2011

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