Future Dermatologist helping us make a difference!

Hi! My name is Helen Powell and I’m here to tell you a little about myself. I’m from Burlington, NC and graduated from UNC-CH as a biology major. Currently, I am a fourth-year MD/MPH student at UNC.

My interest in and love for medicine started at a very young age. I was always the kid dressed up in a white coat and plastic stethoscope on Halloween. It wasn’t until high school that my interest in the specialty of dermatology blossomed. I spent time working with a local dermatologist (and family friend) to complete my North Carolina Graduation Project as a senior in high school. I was immediately struck by the variety of patients seen by a dermatologist in any given day. I love that dermatology represents the perfect intersection among medicine, surgery, and pathology. Patients range in age from young children to senior citizens, allowing for long-term continuity of care. Dermatologists will often see and come to know not only an individual, but also their entire family. Among many reasons why I love dermatology, I’ve also never met an unhappy dermatologist. It is a career that allows for nearly perfect work-life balance and the pursuit of interests outside of medicine. It is also a field with opportunity for substantial immediate gratification and tangible results. I’ve truly never seen patients filled with such gratitude as they are towards their dermatologist. Whether it’s debilitating psoriasis in remission, psychologically-damaging acne cleared up, embarrassing hidradenitis suppurativa lesions excised, the list goes on…

Perhaps most importantly, the field of dermatology offers a platform for me to explore my public health interests. An immediate family member of mine was diagnosed with melanoma last year when I was ironically on the surgical oncology rotation and working directly with a melanoma surgeon, no less. Prior to that, I had fairly peripheral familiarity with skin cancer, but certainly did not consider it often in the context of young people. I’d heard a lot about basal and squamous cell carcinomas showing up in older folks with years of sun exposure. Suddenly, the reality that “melanoma does not discriminate” struck me. When I officially started my studies in public health this year, I knew that I wanted my practicum (or field project) to involve skin cancer screening/prevention in some capacity. It was then that I was fortunate enough to find Tracy Callahan and the Polka Dot Mama Melanoma Foundation! Working with PDMMF offers me the perfect blend of dermatology and public health. It’s been so fun thus far and I look forward to a spring full of screenings and education/awareness events!

To learn more about our free skin cancer screenings visit: https://polkadotmama.org/free-skin-screenings/.


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