Spotlight on: Eleni Linos, MD, MPH, DrPH

Dr. Linos

Dr Linos is an associate professor and director of the program for clinical research and director of diversity at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). She is dually trained in dermatology and public health. After medical school at Cambridge and Oxford Universities in the United Kingdom (UK), she completed a master’s and a doctorate degree in public health at Harvard, where she gained substantial quantitative skills analyzing large cohort study data. 

She completed her dermatology residency at Stanford, before joining the faculty at UCSF. Her training and clinical experience motivated her to think broadly about ways to tackle the growing problem of skin cancer, both by developing innovative prevention strategies and by improving the care patients receive. Dr Linos research priorities include improving the quality of life of older adults with skin disease and addressing health disparities among vulnerable populations.

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

A. The most rewarding part of my job is mentoring and supporting the careers of dermatologists and junior investigators. Working at an academic institution allows me to take part in training many students, fellows, and dermatologists. This is truly an honor. Watching them succeed in their professional and personal lives is by far the most rewarding part of my work.

Q. Are an understanding of the humanities important in dermatology and why? 

A. Absolutely. As I have moved through my career, this need for a deep understanding of humanities has become more and more apparent. As clinicians, we regularly try to convince people to live healthier lives: to use prescribed medications, avoid sunburn, follow screening and vaccination recommendations. It is therefore crucial for us to understand the contextual factors influencing people’s health choices. There are many valuable lessons for dermatologists from the fields of anthropology, sociology, and other disciplines that explain human behavior. In addition, writing is especially important for scientists who need to effectively communicate their discoveries.

Q. Who was your hero/mentor and why?

A. Mary-Margaret (Meg) Chren, the chair of dermatology at Vanderbilt University, has been instrumental in supporting my career. She is an exceptional scientist, leader, and a true role model. When faced with any difficult decision my first thought is usually, “What would Meg do?”

Q. Which medical figure in history would you like to meet and why? 

A. I would like to meet Henrietta Lacks, the woman whose cells contributed to so many important medical discoveries. I would like to ask for her consent, and thank her. 

Q. What was the biggest professional challenge that you have faced?

A. I came to the United States as an international medical graduate from the UK, and as a result, I felt like many doors were closed to me. I was discouraged from applying to dermatology, and repeatedly told I could never match into a dermatology residency program. It took a lot of patience and perseverance to get to this point, but I am so glad I pursued my dream. Looking back, I feel so incredibly lucky to be a dermatologist. This experience is probably why I am so committed to mentoring and supporting the careers of medical students and physicians regardless of their background.

Q. What is the best piece of advice you have received? 

A. “If you’re not getting enough rejections, you’re not aiming high enough.” I frequently have to remind myself of this advice when I receive manuscript or grant rejections. I also try to pass this message on to my students and to my own children. Fear of failure can hold us back from pursuing really big dreams. I believe that failure, learning from our mistakes, and persevering are all essential part of long-term success. 

Dr. Barankin

Dr Barankin is a dermatologist in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He is author-editor of 7 books in dermatology and is widely published in the dermatology and humanities literature.