How Being Teased About Vitiligo Inspired This Dermatologist’s Career

How Being Teased About Vitiligo Inspired This Dermatologist’s Career

As early as kindergarten, board-certified dermatologist Devika Icecreamwala, MD, was fielding questions about skin. These days, patients ask for her advice, but her circumstances were different at age 5: Dr. Icecreamwala had been diagnosed with vitiligo and was teased by her peers for her condition.

“Basically, your skin loses pigment,” explains Dr. Icecreamwala. “It involved a lot of my face, my hands, my legs, and places that were really visible to people. Early on, I just felt very insecure in my own skin.” While there is no cure for vitiligo, a variety of treatments (and makeup) certainly helped Dr. Icecreamwala over the years. The experience inspired her decision to become a doctor — which would ultimately entail relocating all over the country.

After grade school, the Apple Valley native left California to complete a combined undergraduate and medical school program at the University of Missouri®, Kansas City. Upon graduating, she moved to New York to be with her now-husband Kinjal Icecreamwala, and spent her intern year in the Long Island Jewish Health System℠. After Dr. Icecreamwala’s stint in Detroit for a dermatology residency and pediatric dermatology fellowship at Henry Ford® Hospital, they moved to the Bay Area and she opened her practice. 

As an homage to her last name, Dr. Icecreamwala’s office includes ice cream-themed decor — and there’s talks about serving the frozen treat in the future. But, more importantly, the 30-year-old dermatologist is focused on having a welcoming space to educate her patients, eradicating their skin concerns, and personally trying treatments so she can speak about them from a first-hand perspective. After all, her ability to relate and her desire to help others is what motivated her to become a doctor in the first place. 

Spotlyte: Besides your career path, how did having vitiligo impact your life?

Dr. Devika Icecreamwala: I know how uncomfortable it is to be uncomfortable in your own skin, and how much it really does matter, in terms of your self-esteem, and the way the world perceives you. 

Spotlyte: Is there a cure for vitiligo?

DI: There's not a cure for vitiligo. Everybody's a little bit different. For some people, it just kind of gets better on its own. For some people, it's something they're battling throughout most of their lives. For me, I tried a lot of topical stuff, [such as] topical steroids. I also did light therapy. I also was on [medication] for a few periods of my life. 

[Editor’s note: As always, talk to your doctor before starting any new treatment or medication.]

Spotlyte: What worked the best for your vitiligo?

DI: I actually got really lucky that the combination of some of these treatments helped the pigment on my face, so it's not really as noticeable. The vitiligo on my feet has completely gone away. I still do have little parts on my body, but they're very easily hideable. Good makeup has been helpful as well.

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