Carolyn Jacob, M.D., is a perfect example of the “you don’t look sick” generalization.
Fair-skinned with dark hair and bright green eyes, Dr. Jacob, a mom to twin girls, is the picture of confidence. Her skin is flawless, but it wasn’t always that way.
At age 14, she developed an itchy, scaly rash on her body. Her mother brought her to the local dermatologist, where she was diagnosed with moderate to severe plaque psoriasis.
Her diagnosis was discouraging, but it also set Jacob on her life’s path. She studied biology as an undergraduate, attended medical school, earned a degree in dermatology, completed a laser surgery fellowship at Harvard, and founded the Chicago Cosmetic Surgery and Dermatology.
There, she presides as medical director over a team of five other dermatologists. The practice covers the spectrum of dermatological specialties, from general care to high-tech laser rejuvenation and aesthetic surgery.
Her interaction with patients also helped her discover the best course of treatment for her own psoriasis. We caught up with Dr. Jacob to discuss her personal experience with psoriasis, as well as how she helps her patients navigate various treatment options and what she wishes other practitioners knew about her disease.
Health Central (HC): Did your psoriasis play a role in your career choice?
Dr. Carolyn Jacob (CJ): Yes! I started babysitting for the dermatologist who diagnosed me, and then I worked in his office. I was already interested in medicine at age 14 so it was great serendipity.
HC: How does your own health experience inform your practice — both with patients with psoriasis and others seeking dermatological or surgical treatments?
CJ: I can really empathize with psoriasis sufferers and I believe they are relieved to know I understand what they are going through. Many of my patients know I have the condition or I’ll mention it to them if they ask how I got interested in dermatology. They like to relate and feel like their doctor is a regular person.
HC: Is there something you wish other dermatologists or health care providers would understand about psoriasis?
CJ: That it truly is heartbreaking to have — at least it was before biologics! It’s truly uncomfortable and embarrassing.
HC: How do you treat your psoriasis?
CJ: I am on adalimumab (Humira), a biologic medication, and it has been life-changing. It’s amazing to not have to worry about your disease on a daily basis!
HC: Is there a first course of action you take with your patients with psoriasis?
CJ: We discuss their needs, desires, and concerns. Then I explain the condition and how we can best help them.
HC: Is there a particular skin care treatment you recommend?
CJ: If someone thinks they even have “mild” psoriasis, [they should] still see a dermatologist to review the options. There’s nothing over-the counter that will truly help and give the results they are looking for with this condition.
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Casey Nilsson writes about psoriasis and autoimmune diseases for HealthCentral. Casey is an award-winning magazine writer based in Providence, Rhode Island. She’s a 2017 Association of Health Care Journalists fellow and her story on unfair labor conditions for people with disabilities was a finalist for the 2016 City and Regional Magazine Association Awards. Follow her on Twitter @casey_nilsson.