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American Academy of Dermatology honors Detroit physician Iltefat H. Hamzavi with national “Patient Care Hero” award

Rosemont, Ill. (September 17, 2020) – The American Academy of Dermatology has named board-certified dermatologist Iltefat H. Hamzavi, MD, FAAD, a Patient Care Hero for his innovative use of light therapy to sanitize masks needed by frontline health care workers.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused a shortage of the personal protective equipment—including N95 respirator masks, gowns, and gloves—which health care workers need to keep themselves and patients safe. Dr. Hamzavi utilized his phototherapy knowledge—including the use of ultraviolet light to limit virus growth—to identify a safe, efficient method to disinfect masks. As a result, his team, under the direction of Dr. David Ozog, helped decontaminate more than 6,000 masks at three hospitals around metro Detroit, and this method has been used at numerous institutions across the world.

“Hearing stories of limited supplies from across the nation inspired me to think about how dermatologists can help during this public health crisis,” said. Dr. Hamzavi. “Though I typically use phototherapy to treat skin disorders like psoriasis, eczema, and vitiligo, I realized the same technology can be applied to help with the pandemic response.”

Working closely with a phototherapy technology manufacturer, Dr. Hamzavi and his team at the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit created a prototype of a device that can clean N95 masks, allowing them to be re-used by medical professionals. Soon after, the team collaborated with their colleagues in the health system’s infection prevention and control department to test the cleaned masks with frontline nurses and doctors. This was done to ensure the masks stayed intact and continued to fit properly after reuse.

“Dr. Hamzavi and his team have been instrumental in applying their dermatology expertise to discover a new way to clean masks that is helping all frontline health care professionals,” said Mayur Ramesh, MD, Senior Staff Physician, Division of Infectious Diseases, Henry Ford Hospital. “I feel much safer providing patient care during this pandemic knowing my mask is clean and safe.”

Dr. Hamzavi and his team are sharing their learnings with other manufacturers and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration so that this technology can be deployed by others.

The AAD created the Patient Care Heroes program to recognize physicians who transform patients’ lives by utilizing their expertise and collaborating with other physicians to treat serious skin disease.

“This pandemic requires unprecedented collaboration and medical innovation to protect our health care providers and our patients,” said board-certified dermatologist Bruce H. Thiers, MD, FAAD, president of the AAD. “The Academy commends Dr. Hamzavi and his team’s ability to creatively use their dermatologic experience to offer a solution to an important safety issue within the larger medical community.”

To learn more about the work of Dr. Hamzavi, visit www.aad.org/skinserious/stories-hamzavi-ramesh.


About SkinSerious
SkinSerious is a campaign by the American Academy of Dermatology that highlights dermatologists’ role as partners in the health care system, providing expert care for serious conditions. To learn more, visit SkinSerious.org.

About the AAD
Headquartered in Rosemont, Ill., the American Academy of Dermatology, founded in 1938, is the largest, most influential, and most representative of all dermatologic associations. With a membership of more than 20,000 physicians worldwide, the AAD is committed to: advancing the diagnosis and medical, surgical, and cosmetic treatment of the skin, hair, and nails; advocating high standards in clinical practice, education, and research in dermatology; and supporting and enhancing patient care for a lifetime of healthier skin, hair, and nails. For more information, contact the AAD at 1-888-462-DERM (3376) or aad.org. Follow the AAD on Facebook (American Academy of Dermatology), Twitter (@AADskin) or YouTube (AcademyofDermatology).