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Bright Futures

Articles and Updates from Phoenix Children's

October 23, 2020, Israel D. Andrews, MD
By Way of the Resplendent Quetzal or Why does it take so long to see a Pediatric Dermatologist?

By now, you may be wondering, what is a Resplendent Quetzal, and by nature, secondarily asking what this has to do with the long wait times often accompanying scheduling your child as a new patient, or even a follow-up with a pediatric dermatologist.

The Resplendent Quetzal is a fascinating, notoriously magnificent species of bird found specifically in Central and South America. Once considered divine, it has been associated with the mythology of Quetzalcoatl, the “snake-god” of pre-Columbus middle-American natives, and noting both its array of colors and characteristically long tail feathers may explain why this particular species was deemed the “god of the air.”

At this point, like me, you too have likely become fascinated with this species that cannot survive in captivity, and are still perplexed on what this has to do with wait times. Well, I can explain.

The Resplendent Quetzal is a threatened species, which means, likely to become endangered in the near future. The Pediatric Dermatologist, is also a threatened species. With fewer than 325 board certified and specialty trained pediatric dermatologists in the United States, we, like the Resplendent Quetzal may become endangered in the foreseeable future.

Nationwide we are the third most difficult to access pediatric subspecialty, behind Pediatric Neurosurgery and Psychology. Throw in the mix that an estimated 25% of ER visits, and 33% of all pediatrician/general practitioner visits revolve around skin conditions, and it will likely start to make sense as to how this threatened species can accommodate the approximate 70-80,000 patients requiring pediatric specialty skin care.

This particular species, is not to be confused with the more abundant “General Dermatologist” which number close to approximately 90,000 physicians nationwide. While pediatric dermatologists do tend to cluster in major metropolitan areas, and are more commonly found in the wilds of the East and West Coast, we have done our best to ensure and promote those far between areas such as the mid-West and the central aspects of the USA, truth be told, however, our species are not found in all of the 50 states…. but we are working on it.

The journey to pediatric dermatology requires a 1-year internship year in medicine or pediatrics, a 3- year dermatology residency, and a 1-year fellowship specifically devoted to the vast array of pediatric dermatoses be they vascular, genetic, inflammatory, benign or malignant. The choice to join the ranks of this threatened species, to us, is an easy one to make. We love your kids, and we love to see your kids get better, do better, and be comfortable in the skin they are in.

We want to make sure that we can enhance our access to the best of our abilities, but in doing so, we see a more complex mix of skin conditions, and do our best at taking the time to explain all that is skin disease to patients and their parents. We place value in quality of care and sustainable impacts that leave with you and your child when you walk out of our door.

While this may not save our species, we have hopes that our story may inspire your little ones to think about a career in medicine, dermatology and then pediatric dermatology. Until then, we will work tirelessly to find ways to accommodate your child’s skin care needs to the best of our ability. Please know that we want to get to you and your concerns as quickly as possible, but like the Resplendent Quetzal, we can only fly so far.

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