History of the Department

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History of the Department

First in the South

Founded in 1924, the University of Virginia Department of Dermatology is the oldest dermatology department in the South. Reflecting the primary focus of founding chairman Dr. Dudley Crofford Smith, the department was initially known as the Department of Syphilology and Dermatology. Smith started a residency program soon after the department was established, and Dr. Raymond D. Kimbrough became the first program graduate in 1929.

In the early years, Dr. Smith was the only full-time faculty member, and the department's activities centered around developing effective public health measures to combat syphilis. By the 1940s, however, the Virginia syphilis eradication program developed by Dr. Smith and others, the introduction of penicillin, and changes in the scope of dermatology-syphilology to greater emphasis on nonvenereal skin diseases combined to move the UVA department into the mainstream of American dermatology.

Expanding Missions

Dr. Smith died unexpectedly in 1950 and, following the brief interim chairmanship of Dr. Robert C. Thompson, Dr. Edward P. Cawley of the University of Michigan became the chairman of the UVA Department of Dermatology and Syphilology. Dr. Cawley brought with him from Michigan Clayton E. Wheeler, M.D., one of the top dermatology researchers of the time, and together they soon expanded the mission of the department to include a greater role for research alongside the department's well-established strengths of outstanding teaching and clinical service. Dr. Wheeler left UVA for the University of North Carolina Department of Dermatology in 1962, but other outstanding young faculty members continued to build the department under Dr. Cawley's direction. In recognition of the decline of syphilis, in the 1960s the name of the department changed once again, to the Department of Dermatology. Throughout his tenure as chairman, Dr. Cawley emphasized the supreme importance of resident education and continuing medical education for Virginia dermatologists, two cornerstones of the department's mission that continue today.

Building Connections

Dr. Cawley retired in 1976, and the chairmanship passed to Dr. Peyton E. Weary, a graduate of the UVA residency program and longtime faculty member. Dr. Weary oversaw the move of the department from its original, antiquated quarters in the Old Medical School to the newly-built Primary Care Center. Residents and faculty were extraordinarily productive during Dr. Weary's time, generating a phenomenal number of peer-reviewed publications on clinical and laboratory research topics. The department library, which had been started under Dr. Cawley, was greatly expanded in the 1970s and ‘80s, as was the department's collection of 35mm slides, which was (and is) the special province of a young man who was (and is) one of the department's workhorse clinicians, Dr. Kenneth E. Greer. Also during Dr. Weary's tenure, the first full-time dermatopathologist, Dr. Phillip Cooper, and his successor, Dr. James Patterson, joined the Department of Pathology with joint appointments in the Department of Dermatology. In the 1970s, Dr. Weary and the department, along with dermatologists from the University of North Carolina, started the Southeast Consortium for Dermatology, the regional dermatological society that today draws members from Virginia to Alabama.

Growing Programs

Dr. Weary retired from the chairmanship in 1993, and the reins passed to Dr. Kenneth E. Greer. Dr. Greer's department continued the strong emphasis on education and clinical excellence that had characterized the department from the beginning. Under Dr. Greer, the general dermatology clinical program was greatly expanded, the residency program was enlarged, and the Mohs surgery program was established. The Mohs program began under the direction of Harry Parlette, M.D. and has continued and grown under Drs. Mark Russell and Julia Padgett. A highly successful dermatopathology fellowship under the direction of Dr. Patterson was started during this period, as well, and continues to the present time. Dr. Barbara Wilson developed clinical dye laser and vulvar disorders programs. But the hallmark of Dr. Greer's department was the extraordinary quality of the teaching program. Busy clinics filled with challenging, complex cases, an expanded didactic program for residents and students (including Dr. Greer's popular "Hot Cases"), and a new emphasis on surgical dermatology characterized the 1993 - 2008 period.

Embracing the Future

In 2014, Dr. Barbara Wilson assumed the department chairmanship upon Dr. Thomas Cropley's stepping down from the chair and concentrating on his role as the Residency Program Director.

Over the next few years, a number of changes will occur at UVA:

  1. The Primary Care Center clinic is soon to be replaced by a new state-of-the-art clinical and academic facility for the Department of Dermatology.

  2. Expansion and diversification of the faculty roster is of prime importance, too, and recruitment of additional general dermatology faculty and efforts to establish an expanded pediatric dermatology program are ongoing.