While doctor’s appointments in general are familiar to everyone, you might not know exactly what to expect from your first dermatology consultation. I sure didn’t. No matter the cause of your apprehension – whether it be embarrassment from a skin condition, fear of the unknown, a general apprehension towards clinical environments, or a complete lack of understanding of the process, or all of the above – I want to ease your mind after having done it myself.
I visited The London Skin and Hair Clinic just days ago and here’s an honest description of what happened.
First things first, I had to make an appointment. Unlike options provided through NHS, The London Skin and Hair Clinic is privately owned, meaning I could have made appointment on short notice, even same-day. I personally booked a week out which – comparatively – is still quite fast. Because I have a flexible work schedule, I was able to make time during the day, but I noticed that they offer evening appointments and Saturday appointments. The staff was warm, accommodating, and informative.
After learning whom I’d be seeing, I did a little bit of research. Their website offers brief ‘bios’ on all eight dermatologists on-staff. For me, it was comforting to get to know my doctor ahead of time. I don’t go on a ‘blind’ date without doing a bit of cyber-stalking, so why not do the same for my soon-to-be doctor?
Again, booking was quick and easy and (luckily) they emailed and texted me with confirmation of the appointment date and time. I probably would have forgotten had they not messaged me again 24 hours prior, gently reminding me that I was due to come in the following day.
The office was easy to find, just off the Holborn tube Station. I rang the buzzer, was let in, and once upstairs, I was greeted by the friendly reception staff and asked to fill out the new patient registration form. I was asked to arrive 15 minutes early in order to fill out the brief questionnaire. Be sure to have any necessary insurance information on-hand as you’ll need it!
Just like any other patient questionnaire, the clinic was interested mostly in my medical and family history as well as my lifestyle and ethnicity. I’ve always wondered what my ethnicity had to do with seeing a doctor, so I asked. In the case of dermatology, certain skin irritations present themselves in different ways on different skin types. The information isn’t used for any other purpose but to diagnose and treat you as quickly and accurately as possible. Fair enough.
I found the the office to be extremely welcoming and accommodating. It’s obvious that the staff is mindful of patients’ needs as there was a children’s play area and Wi-Fi. It wasn’t ‘clinical’ as many doctors’ offices are. I sat in a big, leather chair while I filled out my forms and hummed along to the quiet music that played. There were two large display cases filled with skin care products and small sign announced that a pharmacy would soon be opening on-site. That’s convenience.
But, it’s fair to assume that you weren’t worried about paperwork or the office amenities. Instead, you were likely concerned about what happens outside of the waiting room and inside the doctor’s office. I was too and I can now assure you: there’s nothing to worry about.
The consultation started with a casual and genuine conversation about the basics. I didn’t have any specific concerns and was instead visiting just ‘to be sure’. My doctor, Professor Jemima Mellerio introduced herself as Jemma to me, and inquired (in more detail than the questionnaire) about my lifestyle and habits. From our chat, she gathered that I’d lived in Thailand for nearly two years and thought it best to check for sunspots and moles.
The doctor only inspected as much as I was comfortable with. I never felt like my personal space was invaded and Professor Mellerio was extremely efficient and professional. I felt completely at ease the entire time. As she looked at my skin, she described what she was looking for so that I might be able to look for myself over time. It turns out that dermatologists can diagnose malignant or premalignant skin cancers by looking for distinctive features in lesions on the skin.
It was was no more invasive than a standard check-up with a general practitioner.
After a few minutes, I was given the all-clear. I had the assurance that I was looking for: my skin was in good health and years’ of abuse from the sun hadn’t (somehow) caused too much damage. I left feeling more informed, confident, and optimistic than I had been going in. I’m both happy and relieved and all of these positive emotions came from a quick, 45-minute consultation. If Professor Mellerio had seen anything she was concerned about, she advised that depending on what she saw she may ask me to return for a review in a few months to check that the lesion hadn’t changed size, shape or colour. For other types of lesions she may have recommended a biopsy, where the lesion is surgically removed and sent to a specialist to analyse. Fortunately in my case that wasn’t necessary.
It’s understandable that people have questions and concerns about what a dermatology consultation is like. I was apprehensive myself but I can say with full confidence that The London Skin and Hair Clinic’s priority is the comfort and safety of their patients’. After talking with Professor Jemima Mellerio, I understand why it’s important to keep tabs on the health of my skin and will most certainly make annual visits.