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. Bowe specializes in cutting-edge treatments for acne as well as skin rejuvenation techniques and laser technology. After graduating summa cum laude from Yale University, she was awarded a full-tuition, merit-based scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. Upon graduating at the top of her class, Dr. Bowe was delighted to pursue her dermatology residency at the State University of New York/Downstate Medical Center under the mentorship of international acne expert Dr. Alan Shalita. She currently practices medical and cosmetic dermatology at Chelsea Skin & Laser in Manhattan and is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Dermatology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center.
Dr. Bowe’s research focuses on acne vulgaris and related dermatologic disorders. For the last eight years, she has conducted extensive clinical and basic science research in the field, exploring the effects of acne therapy on microbiologic flora and antibiotic resistance, the relationship between diet and acne, the effects of light therapy on acne and the psychosocial impact that acne might have on those suffering from this ubiquitous disease. Dr. Bowe’s work has garnered international media attention from CNN, BBC, NBC and NPR and has been selected for publication in multiple peer-reviewed journals. She has lectured and presented her research at numerous international meetings. Her microbiological work has resulted in a patent-pending technology with therapeutic potential for acne. Dr. Bowe has been awarded research grant support by organizations including the American Dermatological Association, the Skin Cancer Foundation, the American Acne and Rosacea Society and the Doris Duke Foundation.
Dr. Bowe’s professional accreditations include the Women’s Dermatologic Society, the American Acne and Rosacea Society, the New York Academy of Medicine, American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery, the American Academy of Dermatology and the American Academy of Dermatology’s Retinoids Task Force. She serves as a reviewer for numerous medical journals and is a member of the faculty of the Young Physicians Council for the Orlando Dermatology Aesthetic & Clinical Conference. She has been listed in Marquis’ Who’s Who in America and has been named a Beckman Scholar, a Westinghouse Scholar and a Gamble Scholar. Her professional accomplishments are especially noteworthy in view of the early stage of Dr. Bowe’s career.
Q. What part of your work gives you the most pleasure?
A. I find the marriage of my clinical practice with my research interests most rewarding. My conversations with patients often generate research questions that stimulate and inspire my various patient-oriented research projects. The data I generate from these projects then comes full circle in enabling me to better counsel and treat my patients. I love the synergy between the two.
Q. Who was your hero/mentor and why?
A. It takes a village … I’ve been blessed with three invaluable mentors over the years: Dr. David Margolis, Dr. James Leyden and Dr. Alan Shalita. Their unbridled passion for what they do is contagious. They are pioneers in the field of acne and have fueled my interests with expertise, support and enthusiasm.
My father lost his hearing as the result of a childhood illness at age 3. He devoted his life to being a champion for the disabled community, playing a leading role in virtually all major disability-related legislation enacted by Congress. He taught me to see through a disease or disability to the person behind the condition. He encouraged me to listen with my heart and to celebrate a person’s uniqueness. The heightened sensitivity I acquired from growing up in the presence of such an incredible man has, without a doubt, shaped who I am. Frank G. Bowe was the most gentle, compassionate and driven man I have ever met. He was truly my — and is an American — hero.
Q. What is the best piece of advice you have received and from whom?
A. My husband, Josh, drew a clear distinction between a job and a career. He told me that if I follow my passion and make it my life’s work, I will never feel like I have a job. I concur!
Q. What is the greatest political danger in the field of dermatology?
A. Medical malpractice suits have become daunting. Dermatologists can be sued for using isotretinoin — or for not using it soon enough. A broken system enables the fear of legal repercussions to take precedence over the implementation of evidence-based medicine. Dermatologists should work to form a united front — we need to continue to stand up for ourselves and for one another as a profession while ensuring our patients’ needs always come first.
Q: Are an understanding and appreciation of the humanities important in dermatology and why?
A: Most definitely! An appreciation for the visual arts is directly relevant to practicing dermatology. Training your eye to differentiate the brushstrokes used in impressionism from pointillism is akin to recognizing the annular plaques seen in a dermatophyte infection and contrasting them with those of erythema annulare centrifugum.
Furthermore, in a multicultural city like New York, I have also found that having an appreciation for cultural differences comes into play almost every day. For example, I frequently offer dietary counseling to my patients when available data supports such recommendations. When offering this advice, I have to take into consideration the dietary staples of my patients from various ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Encouraging a Caribbean patient with acne to restrict her carbohydrate intake without recognizing that rice is a staple in her diet would potentially jeopardize the doctor-patient relationship.
Dr. Benjamin Barankin is a dermatologist based in Toronto, Canada. He is author-editor of six 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.