What is Dermatopathology? By Clay J. Cockerell, MD

What is Dermatopathology? With Dermatopathologist Dr. Clay Cockerell (Best Docs Network) Transcript from Video

A lot of people don’t really know what dermatopathology is. If you go to see a dermatologist and they look at your skin and see something they are concerned about or you have a skin rash – sometimes they will take a biopsy of the skin. Your doctor (usually a dermatologist) will send the sample of skin to someone like me (a dermatopathologist) to take a look at it under a microscope and give them an answer.

As a dermatopathologist you must go through specialized training. You can take the path of training as a dermatologist first and then take another year or more to specialize as a dermatopathologist or you can start off as a pathologist and take a year fellowship training and take an examination and you can also be board certified as a dermatopathologist.

If you were to open up a dermatology or dermatopathology textbook, you would see that there are many types of skin disorders people can get. Because there are literally hundreds and hundreds of diseases people can be afflicted with, sometimes your dermatologist will take a biopsy when they are trying to figure out what you have.

Sometimes the answer is very easy – under the microscope you can tell right away and some skin cancers are fairly easy to diagnose. Others might be more difficult to diagnose, especially some of the rashes people can get. Many of them can look alike under the microscope. Often when this is the case, we will call the dermatologist and discuss the case with them and sometimes we will look at clinical photographs to correlate with them what we see under the microscope. Sometimes they will even actually bring a patient to us to see or we will go to a conference where the patients are. We put everything together to come up with the right answer.

Our goal is to get the best answer for the patient because once we make a diagnosis they can start treating that disease appropriately. Although we do not always get to see our patients face to face, dermatopathology is a rewarding field because we make diagnoses and we are able to help people.

When we get the slide under the microscope and we try to figure out what is going on – most of the time we actually can help the patient and come up with an answer that will improve that patient’s life. It’s quite rewarding to know we have helped the patient, especially when we get positive feedback from the referring clinician.