Before visiting a doctor, it’s important to get to know them both within their practice and personally. I sat down with Professor Jemima Mellerio and here’s what I found out.
Q. What made you get into dermatology? Has it always been your dream?
A. I’ve always known that I wanted to work in a scientific field but medicine came later. I was interested in biology and science as a child, and my dad was a scientist and university lecturer. I’ve always had a special interest in nature and bugs and things. Early on I wanted to be a vet but that was never to be – I’m very allergic to furry animals!
I think I decided on dermatology once I’d been qualified as a doctor for a couple of years. It appealed to me because it’s such a visual specialty with a focus on pattern recognition, which I’ve always enjoyed. I get to work with such a variety of people: sick people, well people, young people, older people.
Q. What’s your favorite part about your practice and why?
A. Oh I have several favorite bits. I have a special interest in genetic skin diseases that are often severe and have a massive impact on peoples’ lives. I’m fortunate that I have many patients that I have known for a long time so the relationships I have with them and their families are strong.
I also love pediatric dermatology because kids are good fun and very open. They can be surprisingly sophisticated and articulate when it comes to identifying and talking about their skin problems.
Q. What personal values do you have that translate into your work?
A. Honesty, compassion, empathy, conscientiousnes and openness
Q. Now, describe your work in 5 words.
A. Rewarding, fun, varied, demanding and exciting
Q. Where are you from and where did you study?
A. I’m from London (or near enough!) and studied at the London Hospital Medical College in Whitechapel. Now, it’s a massive school called Barts and the London School and Medicine and Dentistry.
Q. How long have you been working at The London Skin and Hair Clinic?
A. It’s been nearly six years. One of the other doctors working there recommended me and intorduced me to Bruno, the practice manager. I really like the clinic and the staff; things are run well and the ethos is to put patients foremost.
Q. Do you feel that people leave your office feeling optimistic and at ease?
A. I hope so! That’s a major part of the job…people often come in quite worried about things and sometimes that worry is unfounded. Some people might not blatantly say “I’m worried about this mole” but the goal is to have them open up over the course of the discussion.
Really, going to see a doctor no matter what you’re going to see one for can be anxiety provoking. So I try to put them at ease as soon as possible. A big part of making someone feel at ease is listening. You have to listen. If you don’t listen, you might miss something that is worrying or bothering that person. It might be really important.
I’ve noticed that especially when dealing with teenagers with acne – six months down the line after treatments – they can bloom into totally different people who are happy and full of confidence. It’s rewarding to be a part of this pivotal time in their life.
Q. What has been your favorite moment as a dermatologist?
A. So many. I really love it when I have looked after children with a genetic skin disease with a lot of complications and years later, I receive pictures of them at a graduation ceremony or a picture of them with their boyfriend or girlfriend. It’s rewarding to know that you helped someone with a profound disability to do something – a major achievement – that people normally take for granted. It’s special to me that I get to know patients over the course of many years so I feel like I’m apart of the family. Other high points come more frequently, helping children with eczema or other skin problems get control of their disease and see the benefits; improved sleep, better times at school, the ability to do fun stuff and forget they have a skin problem.
Q. Just for fun…describe yourself in a few words.
A. Oh you’ll have to ask my children or my husband! I’m certainly hard-working and caring, and would like to think I’m approachable and empathetic.