Dr. Tracey C. Vlahovic
Dermatology Fellowship St. Luke’s University Hospital Network- Allentown, PA
Tracey C. Vlahovic, DPM, Clinical Professor, Dept of Podiatric Medicine, TUSPM
Q1: The Podiatric Dermatology Fellowship program at St. Luke’s is the only one of its kind in the United States. Even though you were familiar with St. Luke’s Hospital, having completed a residency there, what drew you to this specific program?
A: While I was training at St. Luke’s, I absolutely loved my dermatology rotation and kept in touch with my attending physician, who was a great teacher and clinician. One day, my podiatric residency director asked what I wanted to do after finishing residency. I asked if there were any dermatology-specific fellowship training available for a podiatrist. He told me there wasn’t, but that he would work with the hospital system to create one for me. He worked with my dermatology attending physician, the hospital system, and the CPME to create the first podiatric dermatology fellowship for me.
Q2: Was this something that you had always known you had an interest or passion for when you were in school?
A: I didn’t have any interest in dermatology until my dermatology rotation in residency. During the rotation, I just fell in love with dermatology and knew that I had to find a way to combine my love of dermatology and my profession. I always had an interest in academia, stemming from my time at Yale University for undergrad. It was important to me to give back to the profession with the knowledge I had gained in my fellowship, and I hoped that it would be at Temple where I had received my DPM. Luckily, there was an opening at Temple University, and the rest is history.
Q3: What would your typical day look like in the hospital or clinic during your time in fellowship?
A: We would see upwards of 200 patients per day in the office. Keep in mind, I was a fellow alongside other MDs and DOs who were undergoing similar dermatology training in the same practice. During the average day, all of us would treat patients, perform biopsies, and check every skin surface and suspicious lesion. Since my fellowship was brand new, I was able to choose other rotations during the year besides dermatology: specifically, plastic surgery and endocrine, as well as a research month.
Q4: Were there any particular challenges you faced in your position?
A: Oh, definitely. There was always the worry the fellowship wouldn’t be approved in time for me to have a formal certificate by graduation. Luckily, it was approved, and I had an official fellowship. I also faced pushback from my other attendings and dermatologists in the area that said, “How is this useful to a podiatrist?”, “How will you use this/what will you do with this?”, “This is a silly idea”. I ignored the naysayers and kept my focus.
Q5: Is there any advice you have for current residents who are thinking of applying to St. Luke’s for this program?
A: You do not have to attend St Luke’s surgical residency to apply to the fellowship. Since I graduated, fellows have come from all over the US. This is the best thing I could have done, as it changed my life in so many ways. It opened many doors for me and hopefully for the future doctors who pursue the fellowship. One doesn’t have to be an academic like me after completing this fellowship.
Take the knowledge you have learned and make it your own in your practice. Ultimately, pursuing your passion is the key to your happiness as a professional. I’m proof-positive that if someone is willing to be a mentor, then anything is possible for the mentee. I am grateful every day that my dermatology attending and residency director made this dream become a reality for me.
By Joshua Ekladios
Temple School of Podiatric Medicine
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