Indian Well being Service Dermatologist Noticed a Must Serve

After finishing his dermatology residency at Johns Hopkins Hospital in 2010, Christopher Bengson, MD, MHS, then a Lieutenant Commander within the U.S. Public Well being Service, accepted a suggestion to develop into a full-time dermatologist at Phoenix Indian Medical Center (PIMC) in Arizona, fulfilling a protracted need to supply look after underserved people. 13 years later, Captain Bengson remains to be offering dermatologic care as the one full-time dermatologist in all the Indian Health Service (IHS), the federal well being program for American Indians and Alaska Natives.

As one of many largest hospitals within the IHS system, PIMC supplies direct well being care providers to a inhabitants of greater than 156,000, together with tribal members from The Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation, the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Neighborhood, and the San Lucy District of the Tohono O’odham Nation, the Tonto Apache Tribe, the Yavapai-Apache Indian Tribe, and the Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe. Dr. Bengson additionally cares for tribal members who journey to PIMC from as far-off as Washington State and Hawaii to obtain dermatologic care.

“There’s a disproportionate variety of Native American sufferers that are available in with extreme psoriasis, hidradenitis suppurativa, and dissecting cellulitis of the scalp in comparison with the final U.S. inhabitants, and I have been shocked by what number of have nonmelanoma pores and skin cancers and autoimmune connective tissue ailments like lupus, because the prevailing sentiment amongst his sufferers is that Native folks don’t get pores and skin most cancers,” he mentioned in an interview. “Those that journey nice distances are those that come see me for the surgical elimination of pores and skin cancers.”

Attention-grabbing circumstances he is seen in his practically 13 years on the job embrace Epstein-Barr virus-induced NK/T-cell lymphoma, anaplastic giant cell lymphoma, subcutaneous panniculitis-like T-cell lymphoma, and necrobiotic xanthogranuloma, “tumors which have typically gone to tertiary care services for therapy, however we have been capable of handle right here.”

In 2017, Dr. Bengson was appointed because the IHS’s first chief clinical consultant for dermatology, a put up that gives him the chance to interface with Native folks and IHS-affiliated clinicians nationwide concerning skin-related questions and considerations. As the one full-time dermatologist employed by the IHS, he additionally views his function as offering a possibility to vary the notion that some Native Individuals should maintain about federally delivered well being care, “the place there could also be a cultural mistrust of presidency well being care in indigenous communities, pushed by generational historic traumas which have come out of boarding colleges, inhabitants relocation to desolate and remoted areas of the nation, and contracts that had been merely not honored,” he defined.

“Whereas none of those points are new, what has been nice for me is that I am happening 13 years of being on the identical facility, and I’ve handled members of the family, their children, and even their grandkids. In some methods the first barrier of continuity of care – not less than at PIMC – has been eradicated by me simply being right here for a protracted time frame.”

In Dr. Bengson’s opinion, efforts to enhance entry to draw extra Native Individuals to dermatology are laudable, together with the American Academy of Dermatology’s Pathways Program, which goals to extend the variety of dermatology residents from Black, Latino, and indigenous communities from roughly 100 residents to 250 residents by 2027, or by over 150%, by means of community-based engagement methods that start in highschool.

“To have an goal benchmark is encouraging,” he mentioned. Nonetheless, he encourages dermatology residency program administrators to rethink how they recruit Native Individuals, a lot of whom hail from rural areas. “In the event you’re recruiting primarily from city settings, you are not possible to incorporate Native Individuals as a bigger group of minorities,” he mentioned. “While you take a look at the variety of division chairs who’re Native American, it is on the order of 0.1%, [so] it is no shock that dermatologists popping out of a residency program do not wish to go to reservations to supply dermatologic care. We pay quite a lot of lip service to mentorship applications and issues like that, however you want a mentor who follows you thru the method – and it is a lengthy course of.”

He believes that residency program administrators ought to rethink the metrics used to pick out dermatology residents and may think about the diploma of adversity {that a} Native American applicant might have needed to overcome to make it to the residency choice committees.

Regardless of obstacles to attracting younger Native Individuals to a profession in drugs, Dr. Bengson sees encouraging indicators forward. A few of his Native American sufferers and members of the family of sufferers have enrolled in medical faculty and have requested to rotate with him at PIMC on the premedical and medical scholar degree. “Some have moved on, not essentially to dermatology, however to different specialties and careers in well being care,” he mentioned. “When you could have such excessive charges of obesity, diabetes, hypertension, coronary artery disease, and stroke in Native American communities, nodulocystic acne and different pores and skin circumstances that aren’t threats to life and limb develop into much less of a precedence. We have to get extra folks within the pipeline to ship medical providers even when it is probably not in dermatology, as the necessity for devoted well being care professionals is so nice throughout all disciplines.”

This text initially appeared on, a part of the Medscape Skilled Community.