How I became a Dermatologist
As a first year medicine resident, pursuing a career in hematology/oncology, I became fascinated with skin conditions with internal involvement, especially those with life threatening or severe disease associations.
One night while on call, I admitted a woman who had scleroderma with ‘beaked’ nose, bound down skin, struggling for her life. As I listened to her story. I was moved by her suffering from this condition and dread while desperately managing her rapidly deteriorating condition. Days later, I was saddened to hear about her death from lung complications.
My first two months I managed patients in ICU/CCU. After an exhausting day, I recall saying to my wife I don’t think I can or want to do this, medicine as a specialty. With her support, I applied for a dermatology residency, not once but three times.
When Lyme Disease was first published, I was a third year medicine resident on rotation at Ohio State dermatology. I was excited to give a lecture on this new condition to the Director, Dr.Lowney and residents who were unaware of this tick borne illness. Early recognition of the characteristic/diagnostic rash is imperative so prompt treatment may prevent a patient from developing serious heart problems, joint and neurologic complications.
Unable to accept me for a position, Dr. Lowney wrote a letter of recommendation to his friend and colleague, Dr. Ken Hashimoto who recently became Chairman of the Department of Dermatology at Wayne State University in Detroit Michigan, an hour from my hometown of Webberville. I was thrilled (he was internationally known expert in pathology and electron microscopy) and hopeful that I might have a greater chance of acceptance with our mutual Japanese heritage. To help bolster my application, I arranged an elective as an outside medicine resident few months before I would graduate as an internist.
When I arrived on my first day of clinic, Eleanor, his secretary was surprised, bewildered, since it was against policy to allow medicine residents outside of their institution (over 200 residents were given first dibs). Later, I found out Virginia, the department secretary had somehow granted by request). As I sat there wondering, Dr. Hashimoto’s voice broke through the intercom, “Ask Dr. Karikomi to come in.” As I walked into his office, he chuckled, “I thought you were Greek!” What irony! This brilliant first born Japanese physician who spoke seven languages, thought my name (apparently a rare Japanese name) was Greek!
During the interview, as a department chair who loved research, he asked if I would be interested in research. I did mention that I would be, not sure what this meant or required. Before I left the interview, he accepted me for a nonfunded residency position beginning the following year. If I wasn’t accepted this go around (with a wife and young son to take care of), I would accept a fellowship at University of Michigan in gastroenterology. Naturally, I was shocked and ecstatic, answer to prayers!
So after I finished residency, my family and I left Columbus and moved to Michigan where I would work as emergency room director with the goal to save as much money as we could.
I was offered a partial stipend, much needed health care insurance (we had our second son during my second year of residency), secretly moonlighting evenings as emergency room physician to provide for my family.
Dr. Hashimoto elected me as co-chief resident at the end of my second year. He mentioned I know enough now and he would like me to spend my third year doing research in addition to the duties of chief resident. I appreciated the encouragement, but I didn’t think I could do both (his research team tirelessly worked into late evening). He graciously accepted my decline.
I am deeply grateful and blessed for my career as a dermatologist and my training as an internist. I thank God who orchestrated the journey to my true calling, meeting every need along the way.
A conversation with Dr. Karikomi
What do you enjoy most about being a dermatologist?
Early on in my career, I enjoyed the challenge of making complex diagnoses and facilitating effective treatments in helping patients become well, easing their suffering. I give many lectures on skin signs of systemic disease to hospital staff, residents and taught family practice and medicine residents in our clinic.
I enjoy connecting with my patients balancing the challenges of being time crunched.
I view my vocation as my calling, living out the vision, mission and values of our practice.
I embrace my role as leader, setting goals/visions and empowering our wonderful staff.
As I ponder my career, I don’t think of what I’ve done in terms of accomplishments. I think more about who I am becoming and what God doing in and through me, and the legacy I want to leave.
For me the sweet spot as dermatologist in terms of what I enjoy most is blending the art and science and striving for mastery in performing surgery, cosmetic dermatologic surgery and laser surgery.
I am grateful and happy to help people look and feel better about themselves.
What are your hobbies?
I enjoy ballroom dancing, cycling, cooking and reading. I was inspirited by Dancing with the Stars (while I was rehabbing my shoulder). The highlight and culmination was performing at the Ohio Star Ball. I enjoy the intricate dance relationship as leader with follower, very engaging, scintillating and romantic.
I started to cycle because of Pelotonia, raising money for cancer research and breakthrough treatments.
I enjoy hanging out with friends and family (four grown sons). I enjoy traveling to the West Coast seeing two sons and grandson.
I enjoy cheering (hoping for that win against the Buckeyes!) for Michigan football.