For Dr. Yuka Asai, it’s nice to be needed
By Danielle Milley, OMA Public Affairs Department
It was a wonderful mentor that drew Dr. Yuka Asai to dermatology, but it’s her patients and her work that make it so rewarding.
The Kingston dermatologist helped fill a great need in her community when she relocated from Montreal to work at the Hotel Dieu Hospital three years ago, and it’s a need that hasn’t let up.
“When I first arrived, the backlog of serious cases really highlighted the need for an expanded dermatology program,” says Dr. Asai. With the addition of herself and her colleague Dr. Mark Kirchoff, they tripled the dermatology program in the last two years. “It’s really nice to be somewhere people are excited to have you. There has been a very real need here.”
Dr. Asai gives credit to the community dermatologist in Kingston who cared for the needs of the community for a decade (with assistance of other physicians at times) before she and Dr. Kirchoff arrived.
While often a misunderstood specialty – some say it’s easier or about making people look good – the reality is, Dr. Asai says she sees how treatment can change her patients’ lives. People who are living with extreme psoriasis or eczema sometimes can’t work or sleep because of the suffering from terribly itchy skin.
“Skin is one of those things you don’t appreciate until it falls to pieces,” she says. “If you’re itchy or red, people notice. My patients tend to be quite appreciative.”
She recounts stories of babies who don’t sleep (and as a result don’t grow) because of extreme eczema and of patients with such severe psoriasis that they can’t work; she’s also seen teenage patients with acne so severe they are essentially hiding and through treatment they are able to be free.
“We can have a profound impact on someone’s life,” Dr. Asai says. “Patients will tell me they would much rather be in pain than suffering with terribly itchy skin.”
While the waiting list of serious patients has been eased since her arrival, Dr. Asai still works long hours. In addition to her clinic, she spends a lot of time on skin cancer care, does research in genetics and allergy (and is working on her PhD); and teaches.
When she’s not busy with work, she spends time with her husband and two young children.
This article originally appeared in our monthly e-newsletter, Spotlight on Health.
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