Spotlight on: Dr. Koushik Lahiri
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. Dr. Koushik Lahiri is a consulting dermatologist and dermatosurgeon based in Kolkata, India. He is Past Honorary National General Secretary of one of the largest dermatological societies in the world, the Indian Association of Dermatologists, Venereologists and Leprologists (IADVL). He is also the executive editor of the Indian Journal of Dermatology. His father was a celebrated dermatologist and his mother is a noted singer. Dr. Lahiri graduated in medicine in 1989 and in 1995 he post-graduated in dermatology and venereology from the Institute of Postgrduate Medical Education and Research (IPGMER) in Kolkata. At present, Dr. Lahiri is one of the most experienced physicians in vitiligo minigrafting from India. Dr. Lahiri is the founder of several interactive e-groups for Indian dermatologists. He has more than 70 published articles in various national and international journals to his credit in addition to several book chapters. He has published three books in Bengali on skin and its diseases, and compiled and edited a mega project (four volumes) of 100 Interesting Cases in Dermatology. Dr. Koushik Lahiri is a multifaceted person with more than a keen interest in photography, computers, music, films, literature and travelling. He is a trained tabla (classical Indian purcussion instrument) player. Beyond writing on skin-related topics, he has penned a number of short stories, many travelogues and numerous poems in different journals, travel magazines and periodicals.
Q. What part of your work gives you the most pleasure?
A. Tears of joy well up in my eyes when, with my humble efforts, a smile comes back on the lips of a young girl with vitiligo.
Q. Are an understanding and appreciation of the humanities important in dermatology and why?
A. Certainly, yes. Maugham once said, “I do not know a better training for a writer than to spend some years in the medical profession.” The opposite may also be true. As dermatologists we are trained to develop the finest observational skills. An author needs exactly the same. Knowing something about art also helps.
Q. Who was your hero/mentor and why?
A. Not one, a few in fact: • My wonderful parents, for bringing me here. • Radindranath Tagore (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rabindranath_tagore), Satyajit Ray (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satyajit_Ray ) and Buddhadeb Guha (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhadeb_Guha) for nurturing me intellectually during my formative years and enriching me as a human being through their creations. • Pradip Kumar Guha, Sujit Ranjan Sengupta, Arijit Coondoo, Subrata Malakar, Sandipan Dhar and Rafael Falabella for chiseling a dermatologist and vitiligo surgeon out of me.
Q. What is your greatest regret?
A. Again, not one, a couple: • I have only 24 hours a day and do not have enough time to enjoy my kids growing up. • I Cannot devote much time for my instinctive attractions for writing, music, photography, nature.
Q. What is your biggest pet peeve related to dermatology?
AOne of the issues that disturbs me often is the term ‘skin of color.’ How long are we going to use/tolerate this horribly meaningless and unscientific term? I would say it is a politically motivated and orchestrated confusion. Do you know any individual on this planet without any color in their basal layer? If ‘skin of color’ refers to Fitzpatrick IV, V, and VI skin types, then how to describe Type I, II and III? ‘Skin of no-color’? Why not use better, crisper, easier and scientifically correct terms like darker skin and lighter skin, instead? I detest the term ‘skin of color’ not exactly as a racist phrase but as an inadequate, unscientific and imprudent term. All human beings have some color in their basal layer. Type I, II, III skin also has some active melanocyte and some epidermal melanin units in their skin. That means ‘color.’ So, why categorize Type IV, V, VI in a segregated manner as ‘skin of color’? In many meetings (recent AAD included) there are sessions on dermatoses in skin of color. Why not ‘dermatoses in darker skin’ replacing ‘dermatoses in skin of color’? Dr. Barankin is a dermatologist based in Toronto, Canada. He is author-editor of five books in dermatology, and is widely published in the dermatology and humanities literature. He is also co-editor of Dermanities (dermanities.com), an online journal devoted to the humanities as they relate to dermatology.