Ever wonder what life is like for a veterinary dermatologist? Need some advice about how to handle dermatology cases? Thinking about specializing in something but unsure of what specialty or how to go about it? Dr. Charli Dong is here to help.
Dr. Charli Dong, a boarded veterinary dermatologist, offers insight into the fascinating world of dermatology in this week’s Quick Cup of Knowledge.
She touches on what practitioners should communicate to specialists when referring a patient and how to avoid issues with difficult clients. She also gives advice to young graduates who are considering specializing so they can avoid making a rash decision. See what we did there?
Have you ever seen an angry dermatologist?
What’s it like to be a dermatologist? Dr. Dong’s answer to that is, “Well, have you ever seen an angry dermatologist?” No, I guess we haven’t.
So what makes dermatologists so happy? Turns out, there are some great perks to specializing in dermatology. Because almost no dermatology case is an emergency, your work schedule is flexible. You don’t have to come running into the office at 3:00 in the morning because a pet is scratching an itch. There’s no need to work nights or weekends!
Another benefit to working as a specialist is the screening that practitioners do of the clients and patients you see. Because of this, Dr. Dongs says that not only do you see the best of clients most days, but clients are in the mindset of be willing to try everything that you offer them.
As a dermatologist, Dr. Dong has a lot of helpful thoughts about communicating effectively with both general practitioners and with clients.
Communication is Key
Communication between general practitioners and specialists as well as that between member of staff and clients can make or break the success of a veterinarian-client relationship. When referring a client, what should the practitioner be communicating with the specialist?
In most cases, Dr. Dong says that practitioners generally can do much of the diagnostics before referring to a specialist. To treat each patient as an individual, it’s important for specialists to hear the details of the practitioner’s diagnostic work they’ve already done.
For allergy cases, which are common in dermatology, it’s best to send patients into a dermatology office when they’re young for immunotherapy treatment rather than giving them medication. Starting that specialist-practitioner communication early can be critical.
Communicating with clients about allergy issues can be tricky too, because they may want to feed their pet a particular over-the-counter food. Many pet owners are passionate about the diet they give their pet, so they may initially resist your recommendation to change that diet.
Dr. Dong finds that when you compare dog food allergies to a human allergy problem, clients can better grasp the importance of the advice. For example, the client has most likely seen a chocolate bar wrapper that says that the bar doesn’t contain nuts, but was made in a factory that does. Similarly, veterinary guides inspect every checkpoint (factories, delivery trucks) for exposure to items that could cause a flare. That’s why these allergy-friendly foods are little more expensive.
The most common allergies in dogs are chicken, beef, fish, lamb, and dairy products. Chicken is the most common because it’s in a lot of food, but that doesn’t mean that every dog that has allergies is allergic to chicken. Like a peanut allergy, though, a little bit can cause a big flare. Comparing these issues to human diseases, Dr. Dong says, helps clients understand the importance of following through with your recommendations and is an effective strategy for any veterinarian.
Thinking About Specializing?
Have we convinced you of how awesome dermatology is?
For graduating students who think specializing in dermatology is for them, Dr. Dong challenges them to first explore all the possible specialties. Specializing is an investment and a commitment that you should be passionate about. This is the rest of your life you’re talking about!
She encourages people to participate in rotating internships and to visit hospitals and different practice settings to gain experience before making that big decision. If you're still itching to be a dermatologist, then go for it!
By the way, you can explore a variety of topics and opportunities in veterinary medicine at WVC’s 92nd Annual Conference. There are currently over 27 sessions scheduled on Dermatology alone. Register soon for discounts!
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