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Alumni Interview

Roger I. Ceilley, M.D.

Portrait: Roger I. Ceilley, M.D.

71MD, 77R-Dermatology

The Cedar Falls, Iowa native is a pioneer in dermatology education. As a community based dermatologist he has worked for over two decades to be a strong advocate combating skin cancer, raising awareness of sun safety in students from kindergarten through college. He is the past president of the American Academy of Dermatology, the largest professional organization in the specialty, and co-authored the official American Academy of Dermatology Guidelines of Care for numerous skin conditions ranging from malignant melanoma to psoriasis.

How/when did you become interested in science and medicine?

I always enjoyed science in school and became more interested because of an excellent biology teacher in high school. My interest in medicine developed because of my love of biology and observing my brother in family practice in Cedar Falls, Iowa. He was dedicated to his patients and loved the science of medicine.

Please highlight your major career achievements, awards, discoveries, etc.

My major career achievements include being a Clinical Professor of Dermatology at the University of Iowa, President of the American Academy of Dermatology and the American Society of Dermatologic Surgery. The most rewarding work that I have done is public education regarding skin cancer detection and prevention. Throughout my career, I have dedicated myself to these causes and the treatment of skin cancer.

Is there a teacher, mentor or University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine faculty member who has helped shape your education?

The late Dr. Chris Radcliff (43MD, 52R-Dermatology) was a mentor in both medical school and in residency. Dr. Richard Caplan (51MA, 55MD) and Dr. John Strauss have been very instrumental in my education and career development.

How or why did you choose the University of Iowa for your education and medical training?

The University of Iowa has a national and international reputation for excellence in medical education. I chose the University of Iowa because of my experience with my brother’s education.

As a graduate of the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, what does being the recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award mean to you?

It is one of the highest honors that an alumnus could possibly receive. I am humbled by it and proud of my education, the University and my state.

Please describe your professional interests.

My interests are many. I continue to teach and write on a regular basis focusing primarily on skin cancer prevention, detection and treatment. For over 20 years I have directed a fellowship in Cutaneous Surgery and Oncology. My fellows keep me intellectually stimulated. It is fulfilling teaching medical students, residents and other physicians. My work with the American Academy of Dermatology has allowed me to continue to raise the awareness of the need for skin cancer prevention, detection and early treatment.

You have been a major force in raising the issue of quality patient care in dermatology to national prominence for over two decades. What led you to this issue and has served as your inspiration in this effort?

The importance of quality patient care was stressed to all medical students at the University of Iowa during my training and is one of the guiding principals of the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine. Developing guidelines and standards of care are certainly an important part of quality care and has been of great interest to me throughout my career.

Your service to the national community on the issues of sun safety has been a focal point in your career. You’ve dedicated sun safety curriculum for elementary school children, and teach on the subject to all ages. What led to your work in skin cancer prevention?

Much of the sun damage occurs during childhood, adolescence and young adulthood. Helping to raise awareness of the dangers of excessive sun exposure is extremely important especially in children.

You’ve been a pioneer in creating a sun safe playground program for children. Please describe this effort.

Children are exposed to the sun during peak hours of sun intensity during recess and over the noontime. I work to promote sun safety through the American Academy of Dermatology, the National Council of Skin Cancer Prevention and the Sun Safety Coalition. This entails work with the Centers for Disease Control and the Environmental Protection Agency as well.

As the past president of the American Academy of Dermatology, co-author of the official American Academy Guidelines of Care, and national advocate for skin cancer prevention, what would you say has been your greatest success?

I feel our greatest successes are in raising awareness regarding the dangers of excessive sun exposure and the early signs of skin cancer. Our national programs on skin cancer screening and public education make an impact on skin cancer prevention and detection.

What are some of your outside interests?

My family. My main outside interests are cycling, hiking, skiing and tinkering with antique automobiles.

Do you have and insight or philosophy that guides you in your professional work?

Being passionate and dedicated to my profession. Trying to provide the best quality care for my patients and treating my patients as I would like to be treated or have my family treated.

If you could change one thing about the practice of or business of medicine, what would it be?

Provide basic universal medical care coverage for all Americans.

What one piece of advice would you give to today’s medical students?

Become the best you can be. Focus on an area of particular interest and gain expertise in that area. Keep a balance in your life and treasure and embrace the unique, honored privilege you have to be a physician. There is no better feeling than enjoying your day knowing you made a positive impact on your patients’ lives.

What do you see as “the future” of the medicine and in particular Dermatology?

It will become more and more sub-specialized and the mapping and understanding of the human genome and medical genetics will lead to more targeted treatments for all medical diseases, and lead to better preventative measures as well.

Read more about our 2008 Distinguished Alumni Award recipients

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