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Dermatologists — physicians who treat diseases of the skin, hair, scalp, and nails — are eligible to pursue fellowship training after completing an initial residency in general dermatology. The American Board of Dermatology® offers certification in dermatopathology and pediatric dermatology, and physicians must complete fellowships in these subspecialties in order to obtain this qualification. In addition, they acknowledge that fellowship opportunities in procedural dermatology are available to doctors who have finished their residency training, but do not offer special certification in this field.
Doctors interested in pathology can apply for dermatology fellowships in dermatopathology. These one-year programs train dermatologists how to prepare body tissue samples for microscopic evaluation, how to subject skin samples to special staining techniques, and how to manage laboratories. They learn to interpret the results of immunofluorescence studies, electron microscope imaging, and immunocytochemistry procedures. Many doctors take the opportunity to perform research during these fellowship programs, and subsequently publish any results of their research in academic journals.
Some other dermatology fellowships focus on the subject of pediatric dermatology. These programs last one to two years, and train dermatologists in how to care for children with diseases of the skin, hair, and scalp. The dermatologic disorders affecting children can differ from those found in adults because inherited disorders, developmental abnormalities, and various skin infections can be more prevalent in these young patients. Since pediatric dermatology is a specialized field, many physicians who graduate from these fellowship programs continue to work in large academic centers that get referrals from a wide geographic area.
The newest dermatology fellowships are in the subspecialty of procedural dermatology. These programs offer additional training in minor surgical procedures, most of which are done in the outpatient setting without the need for generalized anesthesia. Examples of these procedures include the cosmetic fixing of surgical scars, hair transplantation, Mohs micrographic surgery, and subcutaneous injection of filler material to alter the appearance of various physical characteristics. These fellowship programs typically last for one year.
It is important to note that dermatology fellowships are only pursued by approximately a quarter of physicians who finish residency programs in dermatology. The four years of training that dermatology residency programs provide prepares doctors to handle most common disorders. Many dermatologists choose to pursue a fellowship either to increase their earnings potential — especially because performing more procedures typically results in higher compensation levels — or to pursue a specialized aspect of dermatology as part of an academic career.