It’s All About Relationships

By Joel Schlessinger, MD

The path to becoming a good dermatologist is paved with many great mentors. One of many aspects of dermatology that sets it apart from some other medical specialties is that our peer relationships are so often built on mutual support and collective success, rather than on competition. We strive to improve each other’s results and delight in sharing tips and tricks (“mini-mentorship”).

However, it strikes me that while many of us value our mentors, we underestimate the very nature of the mentor/mentee relationship and may not even know when it started or how it developed. We credit our connections to luck or whimsy—“I was fortunate to train at XXX with Dr. Soandso” or “It was my luck that Dr. Suchandsuch was a good friend of my program director”—when that is only a small part of the equation. Mentorship and exposure to lifelong friends and “coaches” can occur at any time in a relationship.

George Hruza, MD is just such an example in my own life. When I started my residency in dermatology at Washington University of St. Louis in 1989, George was the Moh’s Surgeon there. Over the three years of my residency, he was open, honest, caring and supportive. He even performed Moh’s surgery on my mother when it was necessary. My wife and I were fortunate to enjoy social engagements with George that allowed us to see his approach to life.

Interestingly, while I respected George greatly, I never suspected he would become political, much less president of AAD. His path seemed to be either academic in nature or practice related.

Fast forward to 2017 when he won the presidency of AAD after serving as president of ASDS and in many other posts over the 28 years I have known him.

This is the nature of relationships, showing individual growth, mentorship, collegiality and the circle of caring that we are blessed to have in our chosen field. There is no major take-home here other than to appreciate the time and attention that your professors, friends and colleagues provide to you and to emulate that. The impact on our profession of such behavior is inestimable.

In public comments about his election, Dr. Hruza has noted that his primary focus will be on reducing burdens on dermatologists so that we in the clinic can focus on providing the best possible care to each of our patients. I’m not surprised about his focus, nor do I doubt he will deliver on his promises. In addition to the technical knowledge he imparted and the professional guidance he shared with me and many others, Dr. Hruza most emphasized commitment to the individual patient. Because of that, his one-on-one interactions with me have guided me in my practice.

He has continued to assist on Dermchat/RxDerm, an online list of over 1,400 dermatologists (email me at if you wish to join), even despite his busy schedule and the challenges inherent in being President-elect of AAD. This alone shows his deep commitment.

With great pride and deep admiration, I congratulate Dr. Hurza on his election. And while celebrating his impact on so many dermatologists at all points in their careers, I encourage any young dermatologists or residents (and even my older colleagues) to cultivate a meaningful relationship with a mentor, to nurture that relationship, and to appreciate the relationship throughout his/her career.

—Joel Schlessinger MD, FAAD
Chief Cosmetic Surgery Editor


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About Practical Dermatology

Practical Dermatology is the monthly publication that provides coverage of medical care, cosmetic advancements, and practice management for clinicians in the field. With straight-forward, how-to advice from experts in various fields, we strive to enhance quality of care and improve the daily operation of dermatology practices.