The Beauty of Dermatology


An interview with Dermatologist Dr. Teo Soleymani

By R.N. Sugitha Nadarajah

Dr. Teo Soleymani

Researcher in Spotlight Dr. Teo Soleymani, 28, talks about his enthusiasm for medicine: “Medical school was absolutely fascinating and I loved every minute of it. There’s a very unique feeling, an indescribable awe, when you take a step back and observe a person’s health transform before your eyes, going from sick to healthy, in a matter of a few hours or a few days, and it’s due in part to the care you provide. It’s an incredible feeling that can’t quite be captured in words,” says the resident dermatologist at The Ronald O. Perelman Department of Dermatology at NYU School of Medicine, whose research study is published in the current issue of the Journal of Surgical Dermatology (JSD).

Speaking about his accomplishments in the field of medicine, Dr. Soleymani recalls when he became the first ever resident in the history of the Department of Medicine at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, to be bestowed the Excellence in Teaching with Humanism Residents and Fellows Award from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) David Geffen School of Medicine in 2013. “It was an incredible honor and one of my proudest moments,” he states in an exclusive interview with JSD media team.

Dr. Soleymani was described by the award committee as the perfect example of what a doctor should be, due to his desire and sincere passion for teaching future physicians. “He goes above and beyond for his medical students. His depth of knowledge in the pathogenesis of disease is simply incredible and his ability to simplify and explain extremely complex treatment algorithms is second to none,” they commented.

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Dr. Soleymani’s tertiary education journey began in the year 2006, when he enrolled in UCLA to pursue a degree in evolutionary biology. “It was during that time I became interested in translational research, particularly in the fields of molecular and cellular biology,” says Dr. Soleymani.

“During my undergraduate days, I worked in the lab of [Associate Professor] Dr. Andrea Hevener at UCLA, studying the molecular mechanisms of inflammatory pathways and signaling cascades that regulated inflammation, insulin resistance, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.” says the researcher.

“I owe much of my interests in research to her mentorship and the fruitful research conducted in her lab,” he says of his adviser Dr Hevener who in 2013 was recognized as one of the 12 outstanding women of Los Angeles by the National Women’s Political Caucus Los Angeles.

One of his proudest accomplishments while working with Dr. Hevener was when their research was published in the April 13, 2016, issue of the journal Science Translational Medicine. “This was work that took over seven years to complete, with 33 different authors across 16 different departments in three continents!” he exclaims.

Upon completion of his degree, the researcher attended the School of Medicine at University of California, Irvine, to continue his medical education, where he received numerous academic awards and distinctions. “I would say my single most successful accomplishments during medical school was when I was nominated and inducted into the renowned Alpha Omega Alpha medical honor society (AOA), the most prestigious and coveted academic honor bestowed in medical school in the United States, reserved for only the top tier of graduating medical doctors,” says Dr. Soleymani.

He completed his post-graduate training at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, the largest hospital in the western United States, and continued on to NYU where he completed a fellowship in dermatopharmacology and clinical trials at the Ronald O. Perelman Department of Dermatology. He then entered the prestigious Department of Dermatology at the world-renowned School of Medicine at Stanford University, Palo Alto, California, where he currently undergoes his residency training.

Dermatology research

According to Dr. Soleymani, his interests in dermatology and clinical research are multifactorial. He considers dermatology as a very unique specialty in in medicine in that it allows the physician to have multiple roles.

“You are the clinician, the surgeon, the pathologist, the microbiologist, the immunologist, etc. It is probably the last specialty in medicine that still allows complete autonomy of the practicing physician without needing a “crutch” in terms having to refer out to subspecialists left and right, and I think that’s wonderful,” he explains.

“In terms of patient care, dermatology is incredibly rewarding both for the practitioner and the patient because the treatment results are often rapid and dramatic. Take for example, psoriasis, a quintessential dermatologic condition. When placed on the right medications, patients can experience incredible rapid clearance of their disease, with near-resolution of the quality of life issues that often accompany skin disease, and that’s very rewarding to see.”

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Dr. Soleymani asserts that dermatology captivates him because of its incredible fluidity between basic science discoveries made on the bench and its translation into bedside patient care. According to the physician, the translation time of bench-to-bedside in dermatology is much faster than in other specialities, just by the sheer nature of skin biology.

“What often takes decades in other areas of research can often take a year or two in dermatology, and that allows for a much quicker translation of discoveries made on the molecular and cellular level into newer, sophisticated treatments for our patients,” he says.

Currently, Dr. Soleymani is working on a project he claims is a “personal vested interest” of his, which is the development of an autologous T cell vaccine for the treatment of psoriasis. According to the dermatologist, psoriasis is being recognized as a T cell-mediated autoimmune disease and there is evidence that autologous T cells can be used to restore a patient’s homeostatic immune tolerance.

“The goal of this project is to not only demonstrate a potential new therapeutic option for the treatment of psoriasis, for which there are currently several excellent options, but more importantly demonstrate the ability and efficacy of autologous immune modulation in the treatment of auto-immune disease,” says Dr. Soleymani.

While on the subject of current trends in dermatology research, he explains that dermatology is presently experiencing an unprecedented explosion due to the abundant scientific and clinical information which, he reasons, is largely due to the rapid advancements made in biotechnology and genetics.

“Dermatologic diseases and conditions we knew very little about 20 or 30 years ago are being analyzed and unravelled at lightning speed due to the advancements made in research, particularly in the areas of DNA sequencing,” Dr. Soleymani says.

“I think the future of dermatology is extremely bright and I foresee a trend towards personalized medicine, one in which our treatments will be individually tailored to each specific patient based on a deeper understanding of disease pathophysiology, allowing for much more effective treatment and intervention in disease progression. This can only happen with the continued advancement in basic, translational and clinical research,” he concludes.