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Mentorship encourages dream of dermatology

Support and mentorship led to Kandice Bailey, MD, fulfilling her dream of becoming a dermatologist.

Dr. Bailey's story

Kandice Bailey, MD
Kandice C. Bailey, MD
Growing up, my interest in dermatology came from seeing loved ones and neighbors endure various dermatologic conditions. Our rural community had limited access to any healthcare provider, especially one as specialized as a dermatologist. So if someone had a skin issue, it went unaddressed.

Unfortunately, my interest in dermatology was often met with discouragement. Many cited the specialty’s competitiveness, insinuating that I might not fit the mold. Others advised I could better serve my community through primary care, such as family medicine. Over time, others’ opinions overpowered my own self-perception. When I entered medical school, I gave up my dream of being a dermatologist and accepted a scholarship that covered tuition with the condition that I pursue primary care. I attempted to redirect my focus and energy toward other specialties. However, my passion for dermatology could not be suppressed for long.

As my time in medical school went on, the only thing that kept my interest was dermatology. But the turning point came when I met Dr. Robert Brodell, one of the first who listened to me and encouraged me to become a dermatologist. In fact, he was the first one who told me I could be and should be a dermatologist. From then on, it was full steam ahead!

During my fourth year of medical school, I participated in the AAD’s Diversity Mentorship Program, with Dr. Brodell as my mentor. By that point, I already knew him as the Chair of the Dermatology Department at my medical institution. However, getting dedicated time to spend with him proved immensely beneficial. It allowed me to fully dive into the field, serving as a confirmatory experience. Additionally, the financial reward through the program helped alleviate the financial burdens of away rotations and the ERAS application process.

Dr. Brodell’s support reveals the immense impact of quality mentorship. Dermatology is such a niche specialty that students gain limited exposure to the field within the medical education curriculum. I, too, may have missed out on gaining a greater understanding if I hadn’t connected with Dr. Brodell. Mentorship is important for that exposure.

Furthermore, mentorship is key for students who identify as Underrepresented Minorities in Medicine (URiM). Currently, dermatology is the second least diverse medical specialty. Due to lack of representation, URiM applicants often struggle to envision themselves within the field. Furthermore, URiM applicants face unique challenges almost inherent to the application process. For me, having a mentor — a person who could guide me in overcoming these challenges, who advocated for me — was essential. Time and time again, I was told dermatology was too competitive, that my passion for rural, underserved communities was better suited for primary care, not dermatology. Thankfully, Dr. Brodell showed me otherwise.

I was also lucky enough to attend the AAD’s Diversity Champions Workshop, which I found encouraging as a URiM resident physician. It was amazing to have an event filled with academic dermatologists who wanted to hear about my experience, and the experience of other URiM medical students and residents. Creating a space where we could speak and be heard was uplifting. It was powerful to see and hear the work being done to move URiM’s forward in dermatology.

Dermatology is not currently a very diverse specialty, but it is so uplifting to know work is being done to change that. I’m very excited to see where the specialty goes, and I’m so happy that I will be a part of it.

Support Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

The AAD’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiative aims to foster diversity in the dermatology specialty and increase dermatological services to underserved populations. Learn more about this impact, and how you can get involved.

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