Specialization began in American medicine about the time of the War Between the States. Several factors spurred the direction of practitioners away from being the so-called “complete physicians. Most important were the advances in instrumentation made by the 1860’s, which allowed ophthalmology and otolaryngology to develop into distinct divisions of allopathic medicine; sometimes, they even joined together, viz eye, ear, nose, and throat specialist. Dermatology, too, became one of the early specialties for a myriad of reasons ranging from the obvious – visual inspection - to the mundane, viz. default – syphilis was too ugly and complicated for every physician to diagnose and treat. (1)
When American medical education began to expand in the early to mid-nineteenth century, the surgeons and even the obstetricians (2) often gave the lectures on skin diseases. After all, to paraphrase an early discourse at Jefferson Medical College by a surgeon – all skin disease can be divided into those treated by sulfur ointment and those not treated by sulfur ointment. (3)
Dermatology in the United States can boast of having the first dermatology society in the world and one of the first specialty societies – New York Dermatological Society – founded in 1869. The American Journal of Dermatology and Syphilography (1870-1874) was among the first of the specialty publications, not only in the United States but worldwide. (4)
Recommended CitationParish, Lawrence and Millikan, Larry E, "Dermatology is a specialty; dermatology is not a subspecialty." (2006). Department of Dermatology and Cutaneous Biology Faculty Papers. Paper 28.