Meet the Dermatologist: Eczema
Dr. Binh Ngo is a board-certified dermatologist with Keck Medicine of USC. In our "Meet the Specialist" series, we highlight the unique perspectives of various medical specialists on the types of patients they see and what they find rewarding and challenging in their daily practice.
As a dermatologist, I treat patients struggling with issues affecting their skin, hair, and nails. I spend about 80% of my time seeing patients with general dermatology concerns, like acne, psoriasis, warts, sweating, eczema, skin cancers and complex cases related to internal diseases. With eczema, inflammation leads to dry, itchy, rough patches in different areas of the skin that can be challenging to manage, depending on the severity. Regardless of the condition, it’s very rewarding to leave the clinic at the end of the day knowing I accomplished something and helped a patient feel better.
I’ve always felt like medicine was a calling—you have to be passionate about what you’re doing. I was drawn to dermatology in part because it’s very visual; you can look at the skin, which is the largest organ of the body, and you’re able to physically see signs and symptoms that can help lead to a diagnosis. Dermatology is dynamic and changing all the time, so it’s all about pattern recognition. I love delving deeply into a problem to figure out the cause and determine which therapies would work best to treat it.
A Changing Field
It’s an exciting time to be a dermatologist, as new technologies are helping us treat dermatological conditions more effectively than ever before. I lead a high risk melanoma clinic in addition to seeing general dermatology patients and teaching residents and medical students. I’ve watched as the prognosis for metastatic melanoma patients has changed dramatically. In the 10 years I’ve been a dermatologist, late-stage melanoma has gone from a death sentence to a treatable disease, with the emergence of immunotherapy drugs.
And just last year, a new biologic medication was approved to treat eczema—it’s the first of its kind and it targets the root of eczema’s inflammation to ease symptoms. These developments make my job very gratifying, because I’m able to offer treatment solutions that can truly help patients look and feel better.
Finding the Right Dermatologist
Dermatological issues can be long-lasting and complex, so it’s very important to connect with a dermatologist you trust and develop a partnership. First of all, patients should always look for board-certified dermatologists, because with board certification, there’s certain criteria doctors have to meet. They must pass a 10-year recertification exam to ensure they are up to date with recent developments. They are required to take continuing medical education courses to keep up with the latest developments in the field. It’s also important for patients to determine what type of dermatologist they need; most patients will want a general or medical dermatologist, as opposed to a surgical or cosmetic dermatologist. If you’re looking for treatment for a general concern like eczema or acne, you don’t want to see, for example, a cosmetic dermatologist who focuses on lasers and cosmetic injectables.
It’s also important to find a dermatologist who takes the time to listen to your concerns, answer your questions, and help educate you about your condition. With the right dermatologist, you can feel empowered to manage your symptoms and live a healthy, full life.