The Melanin Medics Blog Series showcasing black Medical Professionals in various Medical Specialties. Sharing their journeys, challenges and life lessons. #RepresentationMatters. This week we're featuring a dermatology consultant: Dr Sharon Belmo!
Tell us about yourself and your career journey so far
I am a London based consultant dermatologist. I was born and bred in Scotland to Ghanaian parents. I graduated from Dundee medical school in 2006, where I did my foundation training. I then did core medical training in Liverpool and completed my MRCP exams, followed by two 6-month dermatology LAT jobs in both Liverpool and Newcastle. After this I went on to do my dermatology specialist training in Nottingham, where I did my specialist certificate exam (SCE) in Dermatology, obtaining CCT in 2015. It was a long journey with lots of exams but worth it! I have been working as a dermatology consultant in London ever since. Early on in my training, I noticed that there was a lack of attention to skin of colour. This became my passion and specialist interest. I set up the Centre of Evidence based skin of colour resource in 2016 and continue to work as an advocate of dermatology for skin of colour.
Why did you choose this speciality?
Dermatology is such a varied speciality as no two peoples’ skin is the same. Within dermatology, there are also multiple sub-specialities, like paediatrics and dermatology surgery, as well as there being a large scope for research and academia. I always loved surgery but never quite wanted to be a surgeon and was more so a medic at heart. I am also quite academic, therefore found dermatology to be a perfect fit for me! Being so interested in equality and diversity, I cannot think of a better speciality other than dermatology – the study of SKIN! It is also a speciality with good work life balance which is really important.
What does your role entail?
I treat skin, hair and nail conditions such as eczema, acne, psoriasis and different types of alopecia. A large bulk of dermatology also involves mole checks, skin cancer and skin surgery. I am also involved in teaching, training and academia.
During your time at medical school, did you enjoy this speciality
Very much so, but the rotation was very short, just 2 weeks! I think that is an issue in most medical schools.
What is your greatest achievement to date?
My beautiful 2-year old daughter! I’m a working mama ☺ It is possible!
Work-wise, it would be pushing dermatology for skin of colour in this country and introducing skin of colour to the dermatology specialist training curriculum.
What has been your biggest challenge working in this speciality so far
Joining the speciality as one of the few black dermatologists in the UK and challenging the system in terms of lack of diversity and skin of colour training. Being questioned about my age (I am older than I look!) and country of origin. Dealing with the subtle racism we experience in the UK. This was more so outside of London. I find that this can be harder to prove and can sometimes be worse than outright racism (which I have thankfully had very little of as a doctor).
What do you like to do outside of work?
Other than being a busy mum, I love travel, I am a huge foodie and am absolutely obsessed with anything related to fashion!
What advice would you give to someone interested in this specialty?
Dermatology is a difficult speciality to get into, but it is a wonderful speciality. If it is something you really want to do, persevere. Even if you don’t get a training number first time, so what? Try again. Everyone’s journey is different. You will get there eventually. There are things that you can do between core medical training and dermatology training if necessary, e.g., a dermatology diploma, speciality doctor jobs and courses and conferences.
We need more dermatologists of colour, especially black doctors, so keep going. Find a mentor, attend dermatology meetings. It is now possible to attend virtually worldwide which is great! Gear your CV or portfolio towards dermatology by doing things like projects or audits in your local dermatology department, shadowing a dermatologist, attending conferences like BAD, AAD or EADV or courses such as Biology of the skin or BAD’s DermSchool. Obtaining a derm training number can be competitive so you really need to demonstrate your interest in order to be shortlisted.