Insight Centenary: The underestimated burden of skin disease.

Skin diseasesAn interview with Dr Philip Tong, PhD scholar in Immune Imaging.

Centenary Institute: “What is it about dermatology and skin research that interests you?”

Dr Philip Tong: “People need to appreciate their skin… it is our largest organ. It’s important that people don’t underestimate the enormous burden of skin disease.

I was drawn to dermatology by chance. My father had an itchy skin condition on his neck that was related to stress. I remember him telling me how much it affected him.

After he’d seen a dermatologist, I could see changes, I could see him getting better – and it was this that compelled me to study skin diseases.

Centenary Institute: “Is this still what drives your research or are there also other motivating factors?”

Dr Philip Tong: “As skin disease runs in my family, I too get itchy and scaly skin, whilst my cousin has severe atopic eczema. I can tell it’s a burden for him in terms of how he feels about himself.

Skin Disease

Elastin and collagen in the skin. Image by Dr Philip Tong

The thing about skin disease is it’s very apparent – you can see it – and when it gets better you see that too.

As a dermatologist, it’s easy to tell people to stop scratching but despite understanding what itch is, and what drives that itch, I still scratch anyway which makes my skin worse. And the medicated creams and moisturisers make your skin feel greasy all the time.

So you can see how I really emphasise with my family, and my patients. This helps me see the value of my research as I study the immune system in the skin.

Centenary Institute: “How do you hope your research will help the field of dermatology and skin research?”

Dr Philip Tong: “Not only does the skin contain a vast number of immune cells, there are so many different types.

My aim is to understand if variations among different areas of skin exist and what role they play – in the risk of skin cancer, skin infections, and the different appearance of skin diseases.

Obviously, if more money is invested in skin research we’ll be able to pursue more discoveries and improved treatments.”

If you would like to support scientists like Philip, please donate here today.

Find out more about Centenary’s skin research in our Immune Imaging laboratory.