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Charles Crutchfield: Dedicated Dermatologist

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For Dr. Charles Crutchfield, a future in medicine seemed destined, or at least it did eventually.

"Growing up the child of two physicians, I was so close to medicine at all times, it was almost second nature to me," he says. "I even remember when I was a child, my father would often take me with him on rounds when he would go to the hospital."

Raised in Minneapolis, Dr. Crutchfield grew up in a medical household. His mom, a family practitioner, was the first African-American woman to graduate from the University of Minnesota Medical School, and she was the youngest at the time. His father has been an obstetrician/gynecologist for 38 years and, according to Dr. Crutchfield, has delivered over 10,000 babies.

"They both have served as tremendous role models. Having a bedroom near the garage growing up...I could hear the garage door opening at all hours of the night when dad was running out for deliveries," Dr. Crutchfield says. "I realized that, although he flourishes in this type of environment, getting up at all hours of the night would not be good for me."

Although surrounded with medicine, Dr. Crutchfield didn't start down the road of medicine to begin with.

He attended Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. He was involved in the student senate and did a weekly jazz radio show for about two years, among other social activities. After college, he took six years off before going to graduate/medical school.

"My parents were very concerned because, as I was the oldest child, they had no experience with somebody who didn't go directly from undergraduate school into graduate school," he recalls. "My parents called these the wandering years."

During this time, Dr. Crutchfield says he had his own business: locating scholarships for other students. He also worked at a research laboratory and was accepted into the Naval Flight Academy for jet pilot training, a development that seemed to take him further from a career in medicine. Soon enough, however, he would do what he was destined to.

"During my training, I realized my heart really was in research and medicine, so I opted out, came back, and went to graduate school," he says.

At first, Dr. Crutchfield decided to apply to a PhD program to study molecular biology. He attended the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Northfield, Minneapolis, receiving his master's degree and doctorate in molecular biology. During his time in graduate school, he also applied to medical school. Once he got into the medical school of his choice, he realized that he wanted to take the medical school plunge.

"I realized that I am a visual learner, and during my first year of medical school, I took a dermatology course, and they showed a picture of a patient with a strange rash. As it turns out, the patient had stomach cancer," he remembers. "I thought, 'How fascinating — you can actually look at the skin and make an internal diagnosis. That was the first time that dermatology caught my eye."

He decided that dermatology was his choice of practice after weighing his options.

"I selected dermatology for several reasons," he clarifies. "Even though it's a specialty, you still see all patients — that is, men, women, children, adults, and geriatric patients. [Also] the hours of dermatology, due to the few true skin emergencies, are very conducive to a good family life."

After he received his degree, Dr. Crutchfield continued his training and did a transitional year internship at the Gundersen Clinic in La Crosse, Wisconsin. He completed a dermatology residency at the University of Minnesota.

Dr. Crutchfield has now published over 100 dermatologic articles and recently even co-authored a textbook of dermatology: A Clinical Atlas of 101 Common Skin Diseases. He is also a clinical associate professor of dermatology at the University of Minnesota.

"I am very proud of [my] Teacher of the Year award at the University of Minnesota Medical School and [of] working with the medical students and residents," he says, noting that "tooting his own horn" is not so easy.

He has reason to boast, though: this successful doctor now has his own solo practice of dermatology. He went from employing four employees to having a staff of 42 people.

"We have 14 nurses on staff and have a full medical spa and phototherapy center," he says. "In five years, we have developed a patient base of over 25,000 patients."

Q. What do you do for fun?
A. I like to take my kids to sporting events (in addition to being the "official team dermatologist", we have season tickets to the Minnesota Twins), movies, and plays. We also like to take family trips. Very recently, we traveled to Jamaica, where my wife honeymooned 13 years ago and planted a special honeymoon tree at a plantation. We went back to visit two weeks ago, and the tree with the plaque with our name was still there. The tree now is 30 feet tall and 10 inches in diameter. A very fun trip.

Q. What is in your CD player right now, and what was the last song you heard?
A. Best of Earth, Wind, and Fire.

Q. What is the last magazine you read?
A. Scientific American.

Q. What is your favorite TV show?
A. A combination of CBS Sunday Morning, History Detectives (PBS), and How It's Made (Discovery).

Q. Who is your role model?
A. I would have to say my parents and grandparents.

Q. Your favorite ice cream flavor?
A. Turtle, complete with chocolate, pecans, caramel, and vanilla ice cream, and more whipped cream than one can imagine.

Dr. Crutchfield says that the best thing about his job is "the ability to have terrific treatment programs to make a sincere and significant difference in patients' lives." He is also the "official team dermatologist" to Major League Baseball's Minnesota Twins.

As for advice to future medical professionals, Dr. Crutchfield believes in hard work rather than taking shortcuts in life.

"There is [no] such thing as a get-rich-quick plan. If something seems to be too good to be true, it really, really, really is," he warns. "Plan your work and work your plan."

Dr. Crutchfield devotes his time to his practice and his family, and adds that life is about delivering "more than you promise." He has been married to his love Laurie for 13 years and has three children: Olivia, seven; Charles IV, four; and Arianna, one.

"Things are very rarely as bad they may initially appear," he concludes. "Always have built-in down time for yourself and built-in fun time for yourself and family. Try to find humor in everything and laugh as much as possible."

On the net:Dr. Crutchfield's office site

Mayo Clinic College of Medicine

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