How Did Dr. Samlaska End up in Dermatology?

How did a world-renowned doctor end up in Las Vegas specializing in dermatology?

After five years at Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii, Dr. Curt Samlaska left for the dermatology program at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC. With his residency there, he became a specialist in general dermatology, cosmetic dermatology, medical procedures, Mohs surgery, and exotic disorders.

The decision to narrow his field to dermatology came after a lot of thought, because he enjoys every aspect of medicine.

For example, during his time at Tripler, he worked one month in obstetrics—delivered about 30 kids— and enjoyed it. Dr. Samlaska looked at intensive care, critical care medicine, infectious disease—he loved all of it. He also considered pathology, but in the 1980s and 1990s, medicine shifted from an inpatient model to an outpatient model; he enjoyed inpatient medicine most.

Dr. Samlaska decided that if he was going to be forced to choose an outpatient practice, he wanted to do something fun that he could really enjoy. Enter dermatology.

What Dr. Samlaska relished most about dermatology is that it transcends almost every subspecialty: pediatrics, geriatrics, infectious disease is all in there. The only thing Dr. Samlaska wouldn’t be able to continue was look at EKGs and CT scans, MRI scans. He figured, “well, that’s the trade-off.”

So Dr. Samlaska continued his Chief Resident stint and then stayed on at Tripler for one more year. Then he applied for the dermatology program at Walter Reed; their courses were so good that he decided that that’s where he wanted to go. He was accepted in 1987.

Funny story: at Walter Reed, the department of dermatology is under the umbrella of internal medicine. When they get new residents and the new fellows in, they all get together in one large auditorium.

Each chairman of various sub-specialties stood and introduced their new people. Dr. Bill James was Dr. Samlaska’s mentor. He introduced him and remarked that Dr. Sam was board certified for internal medicine and that he was chief resident at Tripler. There was a big “OH” that went through the crowd. Chief residents for internal medicine don’t go into dermatology—they go into cardiology, infectious disease, critical care medicine, and those sorts of things.

After three years at Walter Reed, Dr. Samlaska went back to Tripler in 1990 and became Chief of Staff of the dermatology department for five years. Again, he doubled up and was one of the medicine staff who rotated on the wards doing morning reports with internal medicine residents as part of the ward team.

In an aside, Dr. Samlaska’s mentor Bill James is an editor on Andrews’ Diseases of the Skin: Clinical Dermatology. Dr. Samlaska has been significantly involved with the publication in the past, and a lot of the photographs in the book were taken by him.

Click here to view Dr. Sam’s resume.