History of the Department

Founded in 1924, the University of Virginia Department of Dermatology is the oldest in the region. 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 Mohs surgery program was established. The Mohs program began under the direction of Harry Parlette, M.D. and has continued and grown under Dr. Mark Russell. 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 pulsed 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 2008, Dr. Kenneth Greer retired from the department chairmanship and Dr. Thomas Cropley of the University of Massachusetts Medical School was named to the Dermatology chair and was also appointed to be the residency program director.  During Dr. Cropley’s chairmanship, the department continued it’s transitional emphasis on medical education and clinical service.  Dr. Cropley championed residency education, and during his tenure the number and types of clinical and teaching conferences, journal clubs and other educational venues expanded.  The residency program itself was enlarged (by one resident) to its current complement of 7 residents.  The department’s clinical activities continued to center on general/medical dermatology and Mohs surgery during those years.  of the residents who trained during his term as chair, nearly half have continued in academic careers, testimony to their abilities and to the department’s scholarly milieu.

In 2014, Dr. Barbara Wilson assumed the role of Interim Chair of the Department of Dermatology.  Dr. Jeanne Young and Dr. Barrett Zlotoff joined the faculty.  Dr. Zlotoff and Pediatric Dermatologist and was appointed Residency Program Director, established the Division of Pediatric Dermatology.  Our outreach dermatology clinic opened at Zion Crossroads, Va location.  Dr. Zlotoff formed the Vascular Lesions Board which comprises multiple specialist who meet monthly to discuss diagnosis and management of patients with complicated vascular lesions.  Dr. Young began offering Dermatology eConsults to Primary Care Physicians.  The department opened two new multiplicity clinics; the Cutaneous T-cell Lymphoma Clinic (Dr. Thomas Cropley) and Pediatric Allergy Clinic (Dr. Barrett Zlotoff).

Through our fund raising efforts, the Kenneth E. Greer Professorship was created.  This professorship is to be held by the active Dermatology Chairperson.  The first Chairman awarded this Professorship is Dr. Art Saavedra who became the Chair of Dermatology in 2017 and soon after was appointed Chief of Ambulatory Strategy and Operations and President of University Physicians Group.