Meet Prof Ncoza Dlova (MBChB, FCDerm, PhD), who is a professor, head of department and chief specialist dermatologist at UKZN (University of KwaZulu-Natal) in Durban. Her career has spanned 19 years, and many in the dermatology fraternity regard Prof Ncoza Dlova as a thought leader and sought-after speaker on ethnic skin and hair. Her recognition by her peers is evidenced by the frequent invitation to address symposia, workshops and plenaries at international congresses. Her other interests include cosmetic dermatology, pigmentation disorders, and HIV and skin …
So who better to ask than Prof Dlova to tell us more about being a dermatologist?
What are your working hours?
8am to 4pm Monday to Friday, and Saturdays when I am on call.
What does this dermatologist’s job entail?
Run daily skin clinics; see and manage patients with skin, hair and nail disorders; perform skin procedures; manage and do ward rounds on sick admitted skin patients. In addition, because I work in an academic arena, I also teach medical students, pharmacists and nurses about skin conditions. I also train doctors to become independent dermatologists. I conduct my own research and supervise trainee registrars with their own research.
What are the mundane aspects?
What are some of the personality attributes required to manage this career?
Passion for the job and compassion towards patients with incurable and genetic dermatological disorders.
What are the different aspects a person could get involved with in this career field?
- A paediatric dermatologist – focusing on skin diseases in children
- Dermatological surgeon – focusing on surgery and skin cancers, and hair transplants
- Occupational and contact dermatitis – focusing on allergies, and rashes caused by work exposure
- Dermatopathologist – focusing on histology of the skin
- Laser skin specialist – focusing on using lasers to treat different skin conditions
- Tropical dermatologist – focusing on skin infections and HIV and skin
- Cosmetic dermatologist – focusing on cosmetic-related skin problems
What are some of the huge no-nos in this industry?
Bleaching patients’ skin.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
Transforming and training more black dermatologists, from being one of only five dermatologists in SA for 19 years, and the only one in KZN province, to training 20 in the province. Working with a great and supportive team in my department. Attaining my PhD and being elected as an international member of the prestigious American Dermatology Association (ADA) for my contribution to dermatology in Africa.
Where could you find yourself in this career?
You could either run a successful private practice or remain at university (academic) or the public sector to serve the public. In the academic sector you can improve through doing research, teaching and social outreach from being a lecturer to senior lecturer, associate, full and finally emeritus professor. At the professorial level you can then apply and take a leadership position and become the head of the department.
What did you study to get into this line of work?
After matric you have to do medicine (MBChB) for six years, then a two-year internship, one year community service, then specialise in dermatology for four years. Thereafter if you want to pursue an academic career, you have to complete a PhD (three to five years) depending on whether you are doing it part-time or full-time. You are then expected to publish your research in scientific journals, and once you fulfil the criteria for professorship, you could apply at your institution to promote you to professorship.
What is the best way to get a foot in the door in this industry?
Work hard and get good grades in matric so that you can get a place in medical school. Thereafter you have to also work hard to get a place in a dermatology training programme.
What can I expect to earn in this career?
About R50,000 a month as a registrar and from R80,000 to R100,000 for a senior dermatologist. It depends on your level and experience. In the private sector you can add up to three times to that amount depending on how busy your private practice is.
What are the benefits in this career?
If you are employed by a university your children can study for free. You can also get a car allowance, housing subsidy and medical aid if you are employed by the government.
What is the market like in terms of jobs and competition?
Training posts are highly competitive and in demand globally. Once we had only one post and had 70 applicants for a training post.
We still need more dermatologists in SA. For a population of 52 million, we only have about 250 dermatologists, and most are in big cities and in the private sector. We need more dermatologists to stay in the public sectors and also to work in the rural areas and hospitals.
Would there be opportunities to work overseas once qualified?
Yes. You can do a PhD overseas or locums or move overseas. However, in most countries you would have to write local dermatology exams before you can practise in that country. But we do not encourage emigration as there’s still a shortage of dermatologists in SA. We wouldn’t want to train for export, we would like the people who we train with government resources to remain in the country and make a difference locally.
Is this a profession for girls only?
No, it’s for both girls and boys. It is quite attractive to girls though.
Your best bit of advice for teens and skincare would be …
Skin: Do not suntan, because you will get skin cancer and develop wrinkles and age faster. Do not smoke (it accelerates ageing and wrinkling). Do not bleach your skin (you may get skin damage and skin cancer if you remove your natural pigment, which is called melanin). The best skin is the one that you were born with, and keep and take pride in your skin colour, irrespective of whether you are black or white. Eat healthy and seek help from a dermatologist if you have pimples, blemishes or any skin problem. There is no treatment for stretch marks; they are genetic and they tend to get better when you lose weight or get older. Know your skin type and use an appropriate skin range for dry, oily or combination skin. Most people have combination skin type.
Any tips for teens who may want to pursue a career in dermatology?
Work hard, get good grades in matric, work hard in medical school and try to do research in dermatology after your community service, by establishing contact with the dermatology department in your area.