What is a dermatopathologist?

To accurately diagnose your medical condition, your dermatologist may remove a tiny sample of your skin, hair, or nail. This sample is often examined by a dermatopathologist (dur-mat-uh-puh-thol-uh-jist).

A dermatopathologist is a medical doctor. This doctor specializes in dermatology and pathology. Pathology is a branch of medicine that studies causes and effects of diseases. Most pathology work takes place in a laboratory. A dermatopathologist diagnoses diseases of the skin, hair, and nails by looking at samples under a microscope.

                Doctor using microscope. Dermatopathologist. Accurately diagnosing some medical conditions requires the expertise of this specially trained doctor.

How to become a dermatopathologist

Becoming a dermatopathologist requires many years of education. To become this type of medical doctor, a person must successfully complete the following:

  1. College, earning a bachelor's degree.
  2. Medical school, becoming a medical doctor (MD) or doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO).
  3. Internship, 1 year.
  4. Residency program in dermatology (at least 3 years) or pathology (at least 4 years).
  5. Medical fellowship, advanced study and training in dermatopathology (1 year), or residencies in both dermatology (usually 3 years) and pathology (usually 4 years).

Who is a board-certified dermatopathologist?

After completing the above medical study and training, the doctor must pass board exams in dermatopathology. After passing these exams and meeting other requirements, the doctor becomes a board-certified dermatopathologist.

Dermatopathologists work closely with dermatologists

While a dermatologist can often look at a patient and make an accurate diagnosis, some diseases require a closer look. Skin cancer is one of these diseases.

A dermatopathologist can provide this closer look. By looking at the sample under a microscope, the dermatopathologist can usually diagnose the disease.

The dermatopathologist will explain the findings in a written report called a biopsy or pathology report. This report will tell what disease was found. The report also provides other information that can help the dermatologist determine the best possible treatment for the patient.

Some dermatologists examine the samples they take from their patients. This is perfectly acceptable. During a dermatology residency, a dermatology resident learns dermatopathology. This training gives dermatologists the skills needed to examine their own samples.

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