“When I send patients to her, they’re always impressed with what her office looks like and what she looks like,” said Dr. Jennifer Salzer, an orthodontist and another patient of Dr. Gerstner’s. “I usually feel confident they’re going to feel comfortable when they see her that she’ll understand what they to want to accomplish.”
‘Harder Than Becoming An Astronaut’
Dr. Rosemarie Ingleton, a dermatologist of African descent with close-cropped hair and glowing skin, has been in private practice on East Fourth Street since 1996. She said that dermatologists have “definitely, definitely, definitely” become more glamorous than their colleagues in various other medical specialties.
“It’s one of those things that’s never discussed, but we all laugh about it behind closed doors,” Dr. Ingleton said. “You always wonder, do they look at it when they’re selecting or is it just that the pretty girls are interested in dermatology?”
They can’t just be pretty, of course. As the field becomes more lucrative, landing a residency in dermatology has become exponentially more difficult. “My father is a Shakespeare professor”—apparently with a sideline in probability—“and he [calculated] that it’s harder to become a dermatologist than an astronaut,” said Dr. Marmur of Mt. Sinai. “I think it’s a reflection of how bad the insurance situation is for most doctors across the board.” (Aesthetic treatments are not covered by insurance, so most elite New York dermatologists don’t bother taking it even for medical visits).
“Dermatology is one of the most competitive residencies in the United States,” said Dr. Nicholas Soter, head of the dermatological residency program at N.Y.U. School of Medicine (which has lately received 450 applicants for its approximately eight spots per year, he said). “You have to distinguish yourself academically as well as in other ways.”
Dr. Soter, in practice since 1973, said he had not necessarily noticed a rise in pulchritude among his fellow pimple-poppers, to borrow a term from a Seinfeld episode that still rankles with clinicians. “Maybe they’re more concerned about their appearance,” he allowed.
Dr. Stephen Webster, of the American Board of Dermatology, the specialty’s certifying board, said that there are only about 300 residency positions in dermatology nationwide per year. Across the country, he said, women currently outnumber men in these programs by just over half. However, top programs in New York tell a different story: 16 of 23 current residents at N.Y.U. are women, said Dr. Soter, and at Mt. Sinai, 10 of 11 are, according to Dr. Shira Maryles, 30, the chief resident.
“They all have the credentials, they’re intelligent and on top of it they’re beautiful,” said Dr. Sylvie Khorenian, a lovely, deep-voiced brunette who practices on Park Avenue and in Englewood Cliffs, N.J., and teaches residents at Mt. Sinai. “And that is an asset, unfortunately, because it’s become so cosmetic. [Patients] can’t help but look at whom they’re taking advice from.”
Meanwhile, brand-name male doctors such as Frederick Brandt, Howard Murad and Peter Thomas Roth, all of whom have their own skin-care lines, are increasingly yielding airtime to female d
octors who are currently the preferred experts of editors and producers, perhaps because of the “relatability” favor. “When you turn on the TV and you watch your morning news shows, I’m seeing more female dermatologists than men,” Dr. Fusco said.
“I guess I feel like a woman’s more in touch with what a woman wants,” said Ms. Pearle, Dr. Gerstner’s patient. “Especially in New York, where everybody wants to have perfect skin. I just think she can relate to me better [than a male dermatologist].”
“We’re traditionally the more significant consumers of beauty services, as compared to men,” Dr. Pak said. “I think the aesthetic sense and the sociability of a woman adds to our ability to provide comprehensive skin care for our patients.”
Skincare’s Swish Sewing Circle
One can’t deny the lifestyle benefits of the field, either; dermatologic emergencies, unlike heart attacks, rarely occur at 2 a.m. A typical glamour derm’s schedule will allow her to drop kids off at school personally in the morning before heading into the office to meet with 20 to 30 patients until about 6, when she’ll be home again to see Junior off to bed. “Most of us have kids,” said Harvard-educated Dr. Susan Taylor, who founded the Skin of Color Center at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt a decade ago. “I never miss their school functions,” said Dr. Amy Wechsler, a beautiful blonde with a flourishing Park Avenue private practice, of her two children, ages 6 and 9. “Everyone thinks dermatology is so the right choice.”
Indeed, could the sedermatological demoiselles, what with their perfect skin, their flexible schedules and their lucrative laser machines, be attracting the envy of elite doctors in other disciplines? “Absolutely, absolutely,” Dr. Khorenian said. “I’m married to an opthamologist. Every dinner I go to, banquet, doctor’s event, the joke is always, ‘You’re so lucky you’re a dermatologist.’ They tease you, and at the same time, they all want to do what we’re doing. I’ve had several opthamologists come to my office to learn how to do Botox.”