International award for Melbourne dermatologist

By Mardi Chapman

5 Apr 2019

Dr Michelle Rodrigues

Dr Michelle Rodrigues

Dermatologist Dr Michelle Rodrigues has been announced as one of five recipients of the International League of Dermatological Societies (ILDS) Young Dermatologist Achievement Award.

The award aims to recognise young dermatologists who have made an outstanding contribution to international dermatology, particularly for patients in under-served areas of the world.

Dr Rodrigues, who also specialises in pigment disorders and dermatology in skin of colour, is involved in a number of outreach programs.

She told the limbic she was fortunate to be involved in projects such as Sampan – an outreach in rural north India initiated by another Melbourne dermatologist Dr Claire Grills.

“In 2017 I assembled a group of two dermatologists, a pharmacist and a dermatology registrar and we went up and provided some services to those communities.”

“Access to care is very difficult and the sorts of villages we visit through Sampan are really some of the most impoverished in rural north India. They don’t even have access to a doctor let alone access to medication.”

She said the team was able to provide temporary services and alleviate some skin conditions with medications they took over from Australia while also educating local lay community leaders about common skin conditions and how to manage them.

Dr Rodrigues is also involved in another project with NSW dermatologist Dr Margot Whitfield, to train dermatologists in the Pacific islands, particularly Fiji.

“I’m assisting with preparing some lectures and working in a clinic later on this year to help facilitate those efforts. Really, I’m just collaborating with other dermatology innovators.”

“I’m extremely humbled to get this award. Australia can be really proud of what we are doing. So many dermatologists are doing incredible things in their own areas of interest and expertise and the College does a great job of supporting that outreach and philanthropic work.”

Dr Rodrigues will receive her award at the 24th World Congress of Dermatology in Milan in June.

While there, she will also be presenting on vitiligo and leadership for women in dermatology.

She said pigment disorders such as vitiligo and melasma and dermatology in skin of colour hasn’t been well understood, well taught or well recognised in Australia.

“I think there is a real need for us to be able to provide for this section of the community.”

“Interestingly not all pigment disorders are just cosmetic. Vitiligo for example is an autoimmune disease just like type 1 diabetes, just like coeliac disease and can and should be treated because it can be cosmetically devastating as well as having other associated auto-immune conditions that go along with it.”

“We need more interest in this area and we need more dermatologists to really start to advocate for this area of dermatology. Also, the area of skin of colour dermatology is obviously a growing and inevitable part of every dermatologist’s practice.”

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