Opening her own practice in her native Bucks County was, as dermatologist Rachel White described, a dream come true.
“It was always my dream to be in the community [I grew up in] and to be a community dermatologist here,” Dr. White said.
However, the circumstances under which the new mother opened her new business this spring were definitely not the stuff that dreams are made of, not by a long shot.
In April, White opened RW Dermatology, which offers medical, cosmetic and surgical dermatological services, in Furlong, Buckingham Township. A board certified-dermatologist who is passionate about helping patients of all ages with their skincare needs, White treats a wide variety of skin conditions and diseases, from acne and eczema to psoriasis and skin cancer.
As her bio states, she’s uniquely qualified to treat a range of complex skin disorders, but this past spring White encountered one of the most complex situations an entrepreneur has ever faced: a global pandemic.
“We got hit with a lot of curveballs right from the get-go,” White said. “I had never been a business owner, and then to be a business owner during COVID, it was a difficult and challenging experience.”
“But,” she said, with gratitude, “I think it may have prepped me for the rest of my business owner life.”
Raised in the Central Bucks area, White is a graduate of Central Bucks South who started college at New York University not knowing, initially, what she wanted to choose for a career. What she did know was that she was interested in art, had a brain for math and science, and enjoyed working with people – she just needed to find a vocation that could meld aspects of all three.
While volunteering in a Brooklyn emergency room, she “fell in love with the patient-physician connection.” She then shadowed a dermatologist back home and discovered her passion for dermatology and her interest in exploring the connection between the skin, mind and body.
“Your skin is what you show to the world and people are emotionally attached to that,” she said. “Your skin also reflects a lot of your inside medical issues, including stress, which can present on your skin.”
Indeed, stress has been a concern for virtually everyone since social distancing became “our new normal” in March. The coronavirus, which can cause rashes, among other symptoms, hasn’t just impacted our way of life, it’s also affected people’s skin, leading to the emergence of another 2020 catchphrase – “maskne.”
“I see a lot of acne patients and I have seen a lot of flares because of the mask use, and then I’ve seen patients that weren’t struggling with acne but now do, especially health care workers,” said White, whose practice donated skincare products to front-line health care workers as the pandemic evolved.
White earned her doctorate degree of osteopathic medicine from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine and completed her residency training at Larkin Community Hospital Palm Springs Campus in Hialeah, Fla.
Traveling between Miami and South Beach, she saw patients of different skin colors, skin types and ethnicities, and treated an array of skin diseases, including skin cancer.
Eager to share what she had gleaned with residents of Bucks County, White and her husband returned to the Delaware Valley, and it is here that White joined the ranks of working moms who are raising a family and building a career.
“I never wanted to be put in a box. I never wanted to be told you can’t do this, or you can’t do both things,” White explained. “I think we have the capability to do both, whether you’re a mom or dad. You can be present in both areas – you just learn how to be present in the moment.”
White, however, could never have anticipated that the birth of her first child, a boy, in February and the opening of her practice in April would bookend an event for the actual history books. Indeed, the past several months have been a remarkable journey for White, one that she hasn’t walked alone.
“I have a really good support team around me – my work family and my family and friends in the community,” she said. “Everyone rallied to support [me].”
White’s work family consists of six staff members, including licensed aesthetician Anne Marie Wagner, and like so many other teams, they had to quickly adjust as stay-at-home orders, personal protective equipment shortages and social distancing regulations posed unprecedented challenges to businesses across the state.
At the onset of the outbreak, RW Dermatology set up a virtual platform enabling White to see emergency patients until her practice could safely accept office appointments.
The practice follows a specific set of protocols, guided by the Centers for Disease Control and American Academy of Dermatology, which include screening questions and temperature checks for patients, staggered appointments, a closed waiting room and mask-wearing in the building. All staff members wear personal protective equipment and routinely have their temperatures checked.
Reflecting on the challenges of opening a business amid a pandemic, White said that while it may have toughened her proverbial skin, she has taken away several positives from the experience.
“We came out on the other side,” she said, “and it only made me a more adaptable, understanding business owner.”
For information or to schedule an appointment, visit RWdermatology.com
or call 267-824-4400.