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Spotlight on: Dr. Leonard Goldberg

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Benjamin Barankin, MD, FRCPC, Section Editor

In dermatology, we are fortunate to have many insightful practitioners and great teachers and mentors. Some are bright stars in our special universe — others unsung heroes. All of these colleagues have much to share from wisdom to humor to insights into dermatology and life. This column allows us to gain insight from these practitioners and learn more about them.

Spotlight on: Leonard Goldberg, MD

Q. What part of your work gives you the most pleasure?
A. Being able to spend time with patients and their families and discussing anything that comes up in conversation during the surgery.

Q. Are an understanding and appreciation of the humanities important in dermatology, and why?
A. Yes, we need to understand the psychology of patients and families, as well as the sociology of how patients and their families fit into society.

Q. What is your greatest regret?
A. Not spending more time with my father when I was younger.

Q. Who was your hero/mentor and why?
A. My first hero/mentor is Perry Robins, who taught me dermatologic surgery, Mohs surgery and exposed me to his joie de vivre and his “can do” attitude regarding one’s goals in life and medicine.

My second hero is the late Alvin Cox, who was my mentor in pathology at Stanford University. He showed me the systematic analysis of tissue specimens and the logical formulation of diagnosis.  This has been a great basis for my thinking in dermatology.

Q. Which patient had the most effect on your work and why?
A. I had twin brothers with basal cell nevus syndrome who allowed me to research their families and use their tissues for laboratory work, all in the interest of science, developing knowledge and know-how about the disease from which their family suffered. This showed me the intense interest and dependence that patients have on their doctors and researchers to improve the standard of living.

Q. What is the best piece of advice you have received and from whom?
A. My mother told me not to be a lawyer but to go to medical school and become a doctor. I had the sense to follow her sage advice.

Q. Which medical figure in history would you want to have a drink with and why?
A. There are two. The first is Aaron, the brother of Moses and the high priest who was in charge of medical care and who co-wrote a chapter on dermatology in the Old Testament. I would like to hear his understanding of the causation of disease, genetics and infectious diseases, and how he treated them.  

The second is a Roman army surgeon whose name is not known but whose surgical instruments were excavated in London adjacent to the Thames river.  His surgical instruments are in pristine condition, not very different from mine today, and are displayed in the Barbican Museum in London. I would like to talk to him about the diseases he treated, how he treated them, who his patients were and the response of his patients to treatment.

Q. What is the greatest political danger in the field of dermatology?
A. The greatest danger in the field of dermatology is the medical insurance companies and their ability to control the practice of medicine. They decide who to pay, how much to pay, when to pay and what treatments to pay for.  Payment and choice of doctor should be a matter of choice between patient and the doctor by mutual agreement.