When most of us think about dermatology, we think skin care products, acne, injectables, and other anti-aging techniques, not necessarily microscopes, skin samples, and pathology, but that is where Clay Cockerell, MD, shines. This specialty is called dermatopathology, and Cockerell, a past president of the American Association of Dermatology, has trained more than 100 dermatopathology fellows in the last 20 years, many of whom are now leaders in this field.
Cockerell, who practices at the University of Texas Southwestern General Dermatology Clinic in Dallas, talked to Beauty in the Bag about this niche and some of the advances that he has helped to pioneer.
1. Tell us a little about what a dermopathologist does?
We diagnose skin diseases under the microscope from biopsies taken from dermatologists and other doctors. We also see patients in some cases and correlate what we see under the microscope with that the patient’s skin condition looks like. Some of us also treat patients in addition to making microscopic diagnoses.
2. Bleach baths have been getting some attention lately. What are they and when are they necessary?
They are very useful for people with eczema, mostly children, especially if their skin is infected. However, they are also useful in people who carry pathogenic bacteria such as staph and are prone to infected hair follicles (folliculitis). Recently, they have been shown to have a direct anti-inflammatory effect so they may also be useful in other skin diseases such as acne, rosacea, seborrheic dermatitis, and even psoriasis.
3. Tell us about CLn® BodyWash and how it can change lives.
It is a body wash/cleanser that is formulated with sodium hypochlorite, which is also in bleach and essentially acts like a bleach bath and can be used in the same way with the advantage that it can also be used in the shower. A number of patients with eczema have used it with extremely good results and it has allowed many of them to be able to discontinue antibiotics and other medications such as cyclosporine, which is a kidney transplant immunosuppressive drug that may be required in severe cases. When patients have to take antibiotics for long periods of time, it increases the chances that they will become colonized or infected with a strain that is resistant to antibiotics such as methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which can be very difficult to treat and can lead to serious complications, even death. Thus, by using a bleach formulated product like CLn BodyWash, patients can lessen their risk of developing infections with these types of dangerous bacteria.
4. What is your practice mantra?
Our mission statement is: We are committed to providing the highest quality, cost-effective, and most timely dermatopathology services possible. Our vision is to expand our services to our community while retaining a supportive and caring work environment. Our shared goals and dedicated teamwork support physicians, patients, and fellow employees through leadership and education.
5. Why do you love what you do?
I enjoy solving problems and working with patients to improve their lives. I also enjoy teaching and sharing what I have learned with other doctors, both colleagues and those in training.
6. What is the most rewarding thing you do for your patients?
As a dermatologist and dermatopathologist, it is very gratifying to be able to evaluate a difficult case and solve it so that the patient can receive the best therapy. I enjoy both making diagnoses but also actually treating and interacting with patients. I still have a vivid recollection of seeing a woman come to see me who had an endocrine problem that was readily apparent to me but had not been diagnosed for many years. We referred her for a work up and she was found to have a pituitary tumor that was removed and her problem got much better. Had this been allowed to go on much longer, she could have suffered significant complications, even blindness. This is a good example how being a clinical dermatologist and dermatopathologist can be a major asset in taking care of patients.