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UW Division of Dermatology Celebrates 60 Years (1961 – 2021)

October 28, 2021
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Dr. George Odland
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2013 UW Dermatology Residents
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UW Dermatology 60th anniversary banner

This year the University of Washington Division of Dermatology is celebrating 60 years of excellence in patient care, education and dermatologic research. 

This is an opportunity for us to celebrate our achievements, share our hopes for the future and reflect on the impact our division has made on the University of Washington, our local community and the world.

"I am incredibly proud of the current UW Dermatology team, and optimistic about our planned growth. I believe Departmental status will allow us to significantly expand the number of patients we can care for as well as the teaching and research impact we will collectively have," says Paul Nghiem, MD, PhD, Professor and Head of the UW Division of Dermatology

UW Dermatology staff and faculty in the 1960's.
UW Dermatology staff and faculty in the 1960's.

Sixty years ago, the Division of Dermatology was established under the UW Department of Medicine with the promise of delivering exceptional patient care, world-class research, innovative clinical treatments and therapies, and robust training programs and educational experiences to support and mentor future leaders in dermatology. Indeed, since 1961 our division has been fortunate to have had faculty, staff, residents, fellows and medical students who have enriched our division through their curiosity for new dermatologic research, devotion to compassionate care and commitment to fostering a collaborative and equitable learning environment.

60 Years of Education & Research

The UW Division of Dermatology has a storied history which dates back to 1961 when the division was established under Dr. James Case, the first Dermatology Division Head who was recruited to the position from Yale. After Dr. Case’s untimely death, Dr. George Odland took on the role of Division Head, where he served for 26 years. Dr. Odland’s passion for innovation and research helped the Division of Dermatology become a nationally recognized leader for its contributions to skin biology research.

Throughout its six decades, the division has flourished by expanding patient access into additional clinics, hospitals and regions (through the use of telemedicine), introducing new research programs, forming strong collaborative partnerships with universities and research entities across the world and offering a variety of educational opportunities including residencies, fellowships, research projects and scholarships for dermatology trainees and medical students.

Explore UW Dermatology’s history by visiting our historical timeline.

Dr. George Odland, the first long-term Division Head of the Division of Dermatology, who led the division from 1961-1988.
Dr. George Odland, the first long-term Division Head of the Division of Dermatology, who led the division from 1961-1988.

Historical Highlights & Accomplishments

  • 1962 - Dr. George Odland, Division Head, first describes the lamellar granule of the epidermis (Odland body)

  • 1988 - Dr. John Olerud named Division Head
  • 1989 - The Herzog Foundation and the University of Washington School of Medicine established the George F. Odland Chair in Dermatology. The first holder of the Odland Chair was Dr. John Olerud. An Endowed Research Fund also was established to support the careers of young skin biology investigators.
  • 2003 - UWMC Roosevelt Dermatology Center opens, providing a dedicated space and staff for the Dermatology and Dermatologic Surgery Clinics
  • 2008 - The Michael Piepkorn Endowed Chair for Dermatology Research was established by Mike Piepkorn and the UW Medicine Matching Funds Initiative. The purpose of the endowment is to support a mid-career researcher who will make significant contributions to dermatology discovery. The Chair was fully funded in 2010. Paul Nghiem, MD, PhD was named as the first holder of the Michael Piepkorn Endowed Chair.

  • 2008 - The John E. Olerud Professorship for Dermatology Training was established by John and Lynda Olerud. The purpose of this endowment is to support the Division’s teaching efforts.

  • 2015 - Paul Nghiem is named Division Head.
  • 2019 - Research on Immunotherapy for Merkel Cell Carcinoma (MCC) receives $14M grant from the National Cancer Institute. 

UW Dermatology Today

2005 UW Dermatology Residents
2005 UW Dermatology Residents

Today, the UW Division of Dermatology is consistently ranked as one of the nation’s leaders in dermatologic research, training and patient care. Our faculty and investigators conduct cutting-edge basic research and clinical trials and publish in leading dermatologic journals on skin, hair and nail disorders and diseases. The Division of Dermatology currently has 16 active industry, NIH and foundation funded research projects and clinical trials, and faculty and trainees are currently pursuing independent research and scholarly work on over 100 projects and topics.  

The division houses several research teams that which encourage involvement from dermatology and bio-medical trainees, across many phases of their careers. The Nghiem Lab, studies the biology of skin cancer with a special focus on Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC), a rare but lethal skin cancer. The Kawasumi Lab is led by Dr. Masaoki Kawasumi whose team of researchers investigate molecular mechanisms of UV skin carcinogenesis, with a goal of developing new ways to prevent skin cancer.

2013 UW Dermatology Residents
2013 UW Dermatology Residents

In October 2021, Dr. Cory Simpson joined the UW Dermatology faculty and research team and will establish a new research laboratory in the Division of Dermatology, with the goal to identify new strategies to promote epidermal tissue regeneration after skin injuries and restore skin barrier function in currently incurable dermatologic diseases.

Each year our division welcomes new residents to our dermatology residency training program. The program consists of three years of clinically oriented instruction, with trainees rotating through all the hospitals in the University of Washington system, as well as the Puget Sound Veterans Hospital and Seattle Children's Hospital

The division also offers two unique graduate student fellowship opportunities in Pediatric Dermatology, offered through Seattle Children’s, and Dermatopathology in collaboration with the UW Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology. Both residents and fellows are published widely, give talks at national meetings, receive numerous awards, volunteer to provide care for the underserved, cover willingly for their colleagues, and summit metaphorical and literal mountains.

Looking to the Future: Transitioning from Division to Department

2019 Annual Division Retreat
2019 Annual Division Retreat

Beginning in September 2020, the Division of Dermatology began the transition to become a department within the UW School of Medicine. Transitioning to a department will allow for more independence over finances and human resources. The process officially launched with a "Blue Ribbon Panel" analysis from leaders at outside peer institutions, supported by the UW School of Medicine. During 2021, UW Dermatology faculty, staff, and trainees developed a new mission statement and values in preparation for the department transition. In July 2022, the division will track its finances very closely, with the plan of becoming an official department in July 2023. 

“It’s been impressive to see the growth of the division, especially within the past ten years,” says Dr. John Olerud, professor emeritus and former UW Dermatology Division Head, who retired in 2020 after 50 years at the UW.

“UW Dermatology is one of the only dermatology training programs in the WWAMI (Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho) region, so we certainly had and have room to grow. Going forward, I’d love to see an expansion of the residency program and even more learning opportunities for medical students. Becoming a department will hopefully allow for more resources to recruit faculty and researchers nationally, and open new units for patient care.”

Through humble beginnings as a small division within the UW School of Medicine, UW Dermatology has steadily grown to be among the top academic dermatology programs in the US. We’re proud to have shaped the lives of thousands of patients and students over the past 60 years. None of this growth and transformation would have been possible, however, without the dedication of our faculty and staff who continue to push the boundaries of their research, provide exceptional patient-centered care and inspire the next generation of dermatologists.

As impressive as our accomplishments are, the best is yet to come. Here’s to the next 60 years!

Celebrate UW Derm’s 60th Anniversary by sharing a memory or congratulatory message! 

We invite you to share a short congratulatory message or one of your favorite memories from working, learning or teaching within the Division of Dermatology over to the past 60 years. Visit our digital ‘Kudoboard’ to add your message, along with any vintage UW Dermatology photos you’d like to share. Add your message to the Kudoboard!

Facebook Photo Archive: Take a Trip Down Memory Lane

The UW Dermatology Facebook page now has two 60th Anniversary photo albums full of vintage photos for you to explore. Click to view photos from the 60s, 70s, 80s or the 90s, 2000s, 2010s.

If you recognize someone in a photo, we encourage you to use the “tagging” feature to tag their Facebook profile. We hope this will help us reconnect with staff, faculty and residents who have lost touch with the division, and grow our social media presence among our alumni.

Share Your Vintage Photos with UW Dermatology

Do you have photos of UW Derm staff, faculty and residents from the past 60 years? We would love to share your pictures on social media and add them to our Facebook photo albums. If you would like to share your photos, please email Mac Writt, UW Derm Communications Specialist, at mmwritt@uw.edu. Please note, our team can assist with scanning/digitizing your photos.

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