The American Academy of Dermatology has named dermatologist Amit G. Pandya, MD, FAAD, as a Patient Care Hero for his work providing free dermatologic care to patients at the Agape Clinic in Dallas.
Each weekend, an attending dermatologist collaborates with fellow specialists to diagnose and treat patients with a range of skin conditions.
The team includes volunteer dermatology residents and medical students, who receive hands-on experience in patient care. Visits are free to patients, regardless of whether they have insurance.
We all practice medicine for different reasons but volunteering at Agape reminds us that being a doctor is not just a profession or a business. It's a calling. The community has embraced the clinic and our team experiences the joy of giving back to those who otherwise wouldn't be able to see a doctor."
Harker is a dermatologist and one of the clinic's volunteers.
The Agape Clinic treats nearly 1,000 dermatology patients a year for conditions ranging from inflamed chronic ingrown toenails, to debilitating widespread blistering diseases, to skin cancers. Local hospitals and clinics often refer uninsured and underinsured patients to the Agape Clinic to make sure they receive needed care.
Since its opening in 2003, the Dallas community has donated equipment and resources to perform nearly all the services of a regular dermatology office-;from treating simple infections to addressing serious autoimmune disorders-;at no cost to patients.
"As a father, I want my kids to grow up in a culture of service, and the Agape Clinic reminds all of us that community service should be an ongoing part of everyone's life," said Dr. Pandya. "The volunteers at Agape are powerful examples of physicians making a lifelong commitment to helping others."
Experts say skin can be a window into internal diseases, including Lyme disease, shingles and liver diseases. Left untreated, many dermatologic conditions can worsen and even become life-threatening.
If melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, is detected early, the five-year survival rate is 98 percent; if melanoma spreads to distant organs, the five-year survival rate drops to 23 percent.
Research shows that those survival outcomes can be even worse in patients with skin of color as they are often diagnosed at a later stage.
The AAD created the Patient Care Heroes program to recognize physicians who transform patients' lives by utilizing their expertise and collaborating with other physicians to treat serious skin disease.
"Skin disease takes a toll on patients physically, mentally, and emotionally," said board-certified dermatologist George J. Hruza, MD, MBA, FAAD, president of the AAD. "Dr. Pandya's work at the Agape Clinic shows how dermatologists care for the Dallas community."