Women in Dermatology
With more than 30 years of clinical and research experience, Patricia K. Farris, MD has established herself as a key opinion leader, physician, author, and media guru.
As a graduate student at Tulane University, she worked with a physiologist who was doing cancer research. The lab was studying beta glucans and their potential to stimulate the immune system to fight cancer, including work in mouse melanoma. In medical school, “I met Lee Nesbitt who was then chairman of dermatology. He was familiar with the work I had done in graduate school and suggested I attend a meeting in Boston of dermatologists who were interested in immunology. I was totally fascinated by the talks at that meeting and quickly realized that dermatology was a specialty that would allow me to use my background in immunology in the setting of clinical medicine,” Dr. Farris recalls.
Dr. Farris is a familiar face on the lecture circuit and is well known for her expertise in cosmeceuticals and skincare. She is particularly proud of two publications, the textbook Cosmeceuticals and Cosmetic Practice and the consumer book The Sugar Detox. “As an interesting twist of fate, I was put under contract on both projects at exactly the same time. I literally spent two years in my office writing and editing, but when it was over there was a great sense of accomplishment,” Dr. Farris recalls. “We have received so many testimonials from readers who have had real health benefits from following The Sugar Detox diet.” She hopes to start work on a new edition of the text book this year.
How did you become media savvy? Why do you train others and share your expertise?
Patricia K. Farris, MD: I credit my interest and early training in communications to Wilma Bergfeld, MD. I think both us were ahead of the curve in recognizing that dermatologists needed to be taught how to effectively interact with the press. We initially co-chaired a media training course for the American Academy of Dermatology, and I continued to teach it myself for many years after. It was such a rewarding experience to see doctors enter the room terrified to get up in front the camera and after just a couple of hours of media training, they would emerge with confidence and competency.
I am proud to have trained so many who have gone on to represent our specialty both on television and in print. I think our ability to interface with the media gives dermatology an unprecedented visibility that is the envy of other medical specialties.
You are considered an expert on topical skincare and have been a leader in this field. What attracted you to this area?
Dr. Farris: I vividly remember the AAD meeting when some of the first studies on the use of tretinoin for treating photoaging were presented. I immediately saw the commercial opportunity for science-driven skincare and recognized that dermatology was now going to be the place where medicine would meet mass market. There were very few dermatologists interested in topical skincare at the time. I started lecturing on the benefits of OTC retinols and why I thought they were probably a better choice than tretinoin for cosmetic use.
After one of my talks, a research scientist from a cosmetic company came up and thanked me for presenting such a divergent opinion to the audience. She asked me if I would consider doing some consulting for them on some of the new products they were considering. Over the years, I have been fortunate to have worked with some of the best skincare companies in the world and learn from some of the best research scientists in the business.
Any tips for dermatologists looking to get on the podium?
Dr. Farris: I get asked this question a lot by younger physicians and my answer is always the same. You must demonstrate expertise in order to get on the podium. You don’t necessarily have to do research, but if you publish a paper or review article on a subject that you’re interested in, that helps get you creds.
I spend a lot of time doing research for my talks and try to create a presentation that keeps the audience engaged. The best way to be in demand on the podium is to make your talks memorable.