Associate Professor Chris Baker

Associate Professor Chris Baker

25 years as a dermatologist, and the role of the Australasian College of Dermatologists

Associate Professor Chris Baker has worked in the field of dermatology for the past 25 years. He is a Fellow of the Australasian College of Dermatologists and immediate Past-President of the College.

He is currently the Director of the Department of Dermatology at St Vincent’s Hospital, Melbourne, where he established Australia’s first photodermatology clinic and co-founded a national registry for patient with psoriasis.

While he treats many different skin conditions, ranging from dermatitis to skin cancer, A/Prof Baker has a special research and treatment interest in therapies for advanced psoriasis, including phototherapy and biological therapies, and participates in many clinical research studies in this area.

“A dermatologist is a medically trained doctor who has continued with specialist training. In Australia, that means a minimum of a further four years of post-graduate training in the specialty of dermatology, after which the doctor qualifies as a fellow of the Australasian College of Dermatologists,” said A/Prof Baker.

A/Prof Baker says prevention of skin disease, maintenance of skin health, and the treatment of skin problems when they arise represent the key roles of a dermatologist.

For A/Prof Baker, dermatology, and the challenges it presents, the impact skin conditions have on patients, as well as the range of treatment opportunities available, were what initially attracted him to the specialty.

“I chose to become a dermatologist when I was a medical student, and dermatology was one of the rotations to which I was assigned during my student years. Upon reflection, there were a number of things that interested me about dermatology. I found that people working in the field were quite engaged with what they were doing, but also the fact that your patients could be anyone. They can be newborn or over 100 years old. They can be male, female, pregnant or not, and there are elements of medical diagnosis and management, through to surgical treatment, which all interested me greatly,” A/Prof Baker said.

Twenty-five years later, A/Prof Baker remains fascinated by the opportunities that dermatology presents.

“A dermatologist can offer a variety of treatment plans to a patient. We deal with a broad spectrum of conditions, each of which requires a specific approach. Each patient also has individual features which means a treatment plan needs to be tailored to their needs.

“Some treatment plans are quite short-term. They deal with a problem that can be managed quickly and efficiently. Others need to be planned over weeks, months, or maybe even years for people living with some of the more chronic skin conditions,” said A/Prof Baker.

“For me, one of the highlights of my role is meeting people on a one-to-one basis, and hearing their stories. I then have the opportunity to help, or make some difference to their lives by dealing with, or correcting a skin problem, which is very rewarding.”

Although skin, hair and nail conditions are common, there are many variants to each condition, which people react differently to, and that makes the patient journey so unique.

“There are so many different patient journeys in dermatology.”

“Fortunately, many of the problems that we see can be diagnosed and managed very easily. However, there are some conditions that tend to be more chronic and recurring, which can be a problem that stays with a patient in some form for most of their life,” A/Prof Baker said.

“That’s a different sort of journey, and that’s when a partnership between the patient and their family, the GP, the dermatologist, and sometimes a support group in helping to manage these more chronic conditions, becomes very important.”

As a Fellow of the Australasian College of Dermatologists, A/Prof Baker is passionate about ensuring all dermatologists nation-wide offer the best treatment options, advice, and level of competency to their patients.

“The Australasian College of Dermatologists is the peak body for dermatology in Australia, and its role is to train, credential and to ensure specialists have reached a level of competency to qualify and work as a dermatologist in this country,” said A/Prof Baker.

“However, the College’s role is broader than that. It also works to ensure specialist dermatologists maintain their professional competency, and offers continuing educational opportunities, while promoting research and further work in the areas of skin disease. In addition, the College advocates to the government and health authorities on behalf of patients.”

A/Prof Baker advises any Australian who is concerned about a spot on their skin, or suspects they may have a problem with their skin, nail or hair, to start by contacting their GP.

“If people notice a suspicious mark on their skin, the first thing they should do is to seek a professional opinion. We advise patients to see their GP to have the area checked, and perhaps have a general check at the same time. After that, if necessary, the patient may be referred to a dermatologist for a further opinion and management of the lesion or the skin problem,” said A/Prof Baker.

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