Dr. Deshan Sebaratnam is a dermatologist currently working across Liverpool Hospital and the Children's Hospital Westmead in Sydney, and also runs an outreach clinic in Dubbo, in regional New South Wales.
After successfully qualifying as a dermatologist, he completed the Sydney Children's Hospitals Network Paediatric Dermatology Fellowship across the Sydney Children's Hospitals Network, Hospital Nino Jesus in Madrid and UCSF California.
Dr. Sebaratnam also has a strong background in research, having multiple international peer-reviewed journal publications and having presented his research locally and internationally. He has a dedicated interest in teaching and serving rural and regional communities.
Tell us about yourself and what led you to becoming a dermatologist.
Dermatology is one of those specialties where you don't get that much structured teaching in medical school, but I was fortunate to get some exposure in my senior years. The thing that I really like about dermatology is that it's a nice mix of medicine, as well as surgery. You get to see patients at all stages of life. I see little kids with birthmarks, children with eczema, teens with acne, and then adults with all manner of medical troubles, including skin cancer. So, it's nice because every patient's a little bit different and every day is a different as well.
Can you explain UPF clothing and how it factors into sun protection?
UPF is a measure relating to the sun protection offered by clothing. People are pretty familiar with SPF, that's the measure that we use when we're talking about how much protection a sunscreen will offer. UPF refers to how much protection of particular clothing will offer. For example, if something is UPF 50, that means you get about one-fiftieth, so one over 50 of the sun damage that you would if you weren't wearing that. So, one-fiftieth, two percent, about 98% improvement.
Can you explain the importance of wearing a broad brim sun hat and sunscreen on a daily basis? Do you still need to wear sunscreen if you're wearing a hat?
The way I think about it, they’re all elements of your armour that protects you from the sun. You want to be wearing your helmet, as well as your breastplate before you go out to battle and it’s a similar kind of concept to me with sunscreen, hats, UPF 50+ clothing. They all work in harmony with each other and they all offer different amounts of protection. You want to do everything you can to minimise that sun damage. One doesn't necessarily replace the other.
Are there particular areas of interest that you have in dermatology, and can you share anything about some of the latest research in that space?
One of my particular areas of interest is in paediatric dermatology; it's kind of an exciting time to be a paediatric dermatologist because our knowledge of a lot of genetic conditions has advanced rapidly. Genetic tests are becoming more rapidly available. For a long time, there were lots of conditions which we would diagnose based on what they look like, but now we're able to work out the molecular signatures for a lot of these diseases. And for so long, not just with paediatric conditions, but also conditions like psoriasis or eczema, we only had a certain amount of treatments available. Now there are new medications coming out all the time.
It is very difficult to the untrained eye to identify melanomas and skin cancers because they can come in many different shapes and sizes.
As Associate Professor Rosemary Nixon from the Skin & Cancer Foundation Inc. says, "the earlier a skin cancer is identified and treated, the better the chance of avoiding surgery, or in the case of a serious melanoma or skin cancer, potential disfigurement or even death."