SPOTLIGHT on Robert Brodell, M.D.


Dr. Brodell is Professor of Internal Medicine, Dermatology Section, Clinical Professor of Dermatopathology in Pathology, and Permanent Master Teacher at Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine (NEOUCOM) in Rootstown, OH. He was the head of the dermatology section at NEOUCOM from 1988 to 2002. He is also Associate Clinical Professor of Dermatology at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH. He has served both medical schools since 1985.

He has been in private practice in Warren, OH, since 1985, he is the director of Skin Pathology Services, Inc., and a Director of the American Board of Dermatology (2003 to present).

Dr. Brodell has authored 169 scientific articles, and a book (Brodell RT, SM Johnson. Warts: Diagnosis and Management and Evidence-Based Approach. [New York], Martin-Dunitz, Taylor Francis Group, 2003).

He is most proud of serving as a volunteer for the American Cancer Society (ACS).

Q. What part of your work gives you the most pleasure?

A. I enjoy the variety of a dermatologist’s life: You see patients who run the gamut from young and old, rich and poor. Each day brings a mixture of medical and surgical cases. Serving the dermatopathology needs of fellow dermatologists provides an interaction that is particularly educational and fun. My volunteer work with the American Cancer Society and with a variety of dermatology organizations has been gratifying.

Q. Which patient has had the greatest effect on your work and why?

A. A friend of mine developed a mole on his medial thigh 11 years ago. After an aggressive basketball game in my backyard, he asked me to evaluate this mole that had “changed” during the past 6 weeks. Clinically, the lesion was entirely benign except that it showed a bit of erythema at the base. I excised the lesion, and it proved to be malignant melanoma with a depth of 1.2 mm. He was sent to a surgeon for re-excision and node dissection, which proved to be clear. He died 18 months later.

This experience taught me that a “change” in a mole (E — evolving mole or enlargement and any other changes) is as important as the A — asymmetry; B — irregular border; C — color variegation, and D — diameter larger than 6 mm.

The importance of remembering to observe the “E” when evaluating patients for melanoma has been confirmed by a number of scientific studies and countless times in my practice, as well. These clinical encounters — especially with my friend — have motivated my efforts for more than a decade to have the E added to the A,B,C,Ds of suspecting melanoma. This concept will save lives, but it won’t save everyone.

Q. What is the best advice you have received, and from whom?

A. My Mom told me to devote time to community service. My involvement with the American Cancer Society has enriched my life in many ways. Never underestimate the potential of volunteerism. It is great for society, and even better for individuals in developing leadership skills, expertise in teaching, and for forming life-long friendships.

Q. Have you had a “15-minutes-of-fame” moment?

A. After years of wearing my Mark Price Jersey, screaming at Cleveland Cavalier basketball games, and calling in to the post-game show (Basketball Bob), I was chosen to be Cav’s fan of the year in 1997. It was great; I felt like LeBron James for at least 15 minutes.

Q. What do you think is the greatest political danger to dermatology?

A. We have weathered a lot of dangerous times, but the current “Pay for Performance” boondoggle may be the most difficult to defeat. Although at first glance it appears that doctors will be paid a “bonus” for appropriately vaccinating their patients, etc., I fear it will degenerate into a “kick-back” for prescribing generic drugs and withholding more expensive treatments from our patients.
We must never agree with the concept that doctors owe equal responsibility to society and their patients. Our primary responsibility is to our patients.