Young Dermatologist Achievement Award 2019: Michelle Rodrigues

1 November 2019

Every four years, in conjunction with the World Congress of Dermatology, the ILDS recognises young dermatologists who have made an outstanding contribution to international dermatology, particularly for patients in under-served areas of the world.

The Young Dermatologist Achievement Award (YDAA) is presented to five individuals during the Congress; one from each ILDS Region: Asia Pacific; Europe; Latin America and the Caribbean; South Asia, the Middle East and Africa; USA and Canada. Dr Michelle Rodrigues was selected for the Asia Pacific region from the nominations submitted by ILDS Members.

Michelle specialises in pigmentary disorders and skin of colour dermatology. Her interest in humanitarian dermatology began 13 years ago:

“Australia is full of incredibly talented dermatologists who contribute to skin health programs abroad. Sampan, an organisation established by Australian Doctors, Nathan (Public Health Physician) and Claire Grills (Dermatologist) over 13 years ago has been servicing parts of rural North India in many ways since then. I assembled a group – two dermatologists (myself and Dr Giri Raj), one pharmacist (Manisha Kaur) and one dermatology registrar (Dr Celeste Wong) – who visited rural North India in early 2017. Supported by the American Academy of Dermatology, we crafted a program that focused on educating village leaders in remote communities and school children about pigmentary disorders like vitiligo and melasma as well as common conditions like scabies, tinea and eczema. We also saw and treated hundreds of people from four different villages in the region during this time.

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Michelle and Dr Giri Raj with community health leaders in rural North India after an educational session on scabies, sun protection and vitiligo

Later this year, I will work alongside my colleague and dear friend, Dr Celeste Wong, in Fiji. We will help deliver education on pigment disorders and skin conditions in pregnancy as part of a dermatology course for doctors in Fiji. At present, no formal training in dermatology exists but Dr Margot Whitfeld, a dermatologist based in Sydney, has worked tirelessly with the Ministry of Health in Fiji to get this educational endeavour off the ground and I am happy to be able to contribute in some small way to this now and into the future.”

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Michelle making a presentation during the World Congress of Dermatology in Milan, Italy

The YDAA was presented during the World Congress of Dermatology (WCD) in Milan, Italy. Michelle was involved in some of the pre-WCD meetings including the Women’s Dermatologic Society forum on leadership in women in which she shared her perspective on leadership in dermatology for women in Australia. She was also involved in the working group meeting for vitiligo, and co-chaired a session on hypopigmentation with her mentor, Dr Amit Pandya. During the session, she delivered a lecture on the different causes of hypopigmentation. Michelle described the Congress as “Attending a truly global event like the WCD, enabled me to reconnect with old colleagues and form new friendships with people from different parts of the globe. I love learning about differences in dermatology between countries and continents and broadening my perspective on therapeutic options for patients. I also learned a lot about advances in artificial intelligence and genetic testing that will enhance our diagnostic capabilities and the new therapeutic targets for inflammatory and autoimmune conditions like atopic dermatitis and psoriasis.”.

It was difficult for her to pick one highlight from the WCD, “It is almost impossible to pick one thing but I really enjoyed the plenary session by John Harris on vitiligo and the ILDS Reception where I met the inspiring leaders in the ILDS and the other recipients of the young dermatologists achievement award. I am very grateful that the ILDS recognises and encourages younger dermatologists in their academic and outreach endeavours.”

In the future, she hopes to continue researching and educating in the areas of pigment disorders and skin of colour so we can improve patient outcomes globally, to mentor and support more dermatology trainees and young dermatologists and to broaden her outreach endeavours.

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