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Q&A Spotlight: Dr. Jonathan Trager

Author: The Dermatology Specialists

Dr. Jonathan Trager The Dermatology Specialists

Dr. Jonathan Trager has made it his career’s mission to help children, adolescents and young adults achieve healthy skin and high levels of overall wellness.

Dr. Trager brings a wealth of experience to his role as a dermatologist at The Dermatology Specialists. He has worked in the medical sector for over two decades and is board-certified in four specialties: pediatrics, adolescent medicine, dermatology, and pediatric dermatology. Dr. Trager has also completed a fellowship in integrative medicine, which gives him a holistic view of how a given skin problem may fit into a broader understanding of a patient’s overall health. Today, he seeks to use all of his practical and learned knowledge to provide his patients with the highest standard of dermatological care.

Born in Bayside, Queens, Dr. Jonathan Trager first realized his interest in the medical field during his undergraduate years at Columbia University. Following his graduation, he pursued his medical degree at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, where his academic achievements ultimately earned him an election to the school’s Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society. From there, Dr. Trager proceeded to complete residencies in pediatrics and dermatology at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and the New York Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan, respectively. Shortly after that, he embarked on a fellowship in adolescent medicine at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City.

Dr. Trager is known not only for his work as a physician, but also as a writer, teacher, and speaker. He has written many academic articles on the subject of pediatric dermatology and even penned a chapter on pediatric vulvar dermatology for Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology, Sixth Edition, an updated version of which is scheduled to be released in 2020. An experienced teacher, Dr. Jonathan Trager has also served on the faculty for both Winthrop University Hospital in Mineola, New York, and Mount Sinai Medical College in Manhattan. In addition to his role at The Dermatology Specialists, Dr. Trager is also affiliated with Cohen Children’s Medical Center and Northwell Health.

We sat down with Dr. Trager to find out more about his story, experience, and his fascinating range of interests (including the pipe organ!)

Most physicians don’t choose to specialize in more than one or two fields. How did you end up pursuing four board certifications?

When I went to medical school, I planned to become a pediatrician. I liked working with kids and helping families. But during my pediatrics training, I realized that there was a whole world of pediatric skin problems that the average pediatrician wasn’t trained to treat. I wanted to broaden my understanding of those childhood skin diseases, so I went back to do a second residency in dermatology. Then, I did a fellowship in adolescent medicine at Mt. Sinai, which allowed me to incorporate all of my skin training and primary care expertise into my work with teenage patients. Now, I practice a mix of pediatrics, primary care, adolescent medicine, and dermatology. It’s been an incredibly rewarding experience.

What was your educational arc?

I attended Columbia University in New York City for my undergrad, then the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine for medical school. After that, I completed a three-year residency in pediatrics at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh before taking on a second residency in dermatology at New York Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan. Then, I finished off with a fellowship in adolescent medicine at Mt. Sinai and a fellowship in Integrative Medicine through the University of Arizona.

Are there any more board certifications in your future?

No, I don’t think so! I just have to maintain the ones I already have.

How has your background in pediatrics influenced your approach to dermatology?

When I see a kid for a skin problem, I’m rarely just thinking of the skin problem. I see the whole child within a context of overall health, understanding that a skin issue may be a manifestation of an internal problem. I see pediatrics as the internal medicine of kids; if you take that perspective, you can better understand what broader ramifications a child’s skin condition can create.

I’ve been working with children for a long time, and I’ve gained some useful insights into how a chronic skin issue can affect a child as a person. My approach isn’t just about handing over some acne or eczema cream and calling it a day — it’s more about how I, as a doctor, can help the overall child to be healthy.

What would you say is the most gratifying part of your job?

Getting to make kids better. It’s really something to see; I know that for some kids with chronic conditions like hair loss, psoriasis, or severe atopic dermatitis, having care can be life-changing. I also specialize in vulvar dermatology, which addresses skin conditions that affect the vulvar area, such as lichen sclerosus. Those conditions are rough on girls and hard on families, so it’s always nice to be able to make them better.

Do you ever lecture on your experience?

I do, usually on topics relating to vulvar dermatology. I’ve been receiving invitations to speak on the topic for the last 20 years. I’ve lectured across the country, from New York to Miami to institutions in California. This summer, I’ll be heading to Rotterdam to speak at the European Association of Paediatric and Adolescent Gynaecology which will be a wonderful opportunity to bring what I have learned to physicians in Europe.

What’s something that you wish patients knew more about skincare?

Even children need to have a skincare routine. A lot of skin problems come down to dryness; left unchecked, it can lead to eczema and itching. One of the points that I stress in my practice is the importance of using a daily cleanser and moisturizer to resolve dryness before it becomes a more significant problem.

I also recommend that my patients apply a non-chemical, mineral-based sunscreen like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide half an hour before they go out, with reapplications every hour or two depending on their activities. Sun protection and skin cancer prevention need to start at a young age. If you wait until you’re 60 to start using sunscreen, it’s a little too late. If there’s one practice that will provide an overarching, lifelong benefit, it would be making sun protection a priority.

What do you like to do outside of work?

I’m a fan of science fiction — I’m actually writing a novel now. I take acting classes on weekends and have acted off-off-Broadway. I’m also an avid classical pianist and pipe organist; my first piano teacher played the organ, and she introduced me to organ music. I don’t perform professionally too often, but sometimes I’ll substitute as an organist for local church services.

I am also finishing up a second college degree, this one in Greek and Byzantine studies, at Queens College. For vacations, our family enjoys heading to upstate New York and Vermont to enjoy the great outdoors.