Decade of service for renowned Westmead dermatologist

Westmead Hospital dermatology department Professor Pablo Fernandez-Penas has worked at the hospital for 13 years.

He walked through the doors of Westmead Hospital in June 2007 as an academic and Associate Professor in Dermatology with the University of Sydney.

By 2010, he was responsible for the opening of the Dermatology Comprehensive Clinical Centre at Westmead Hospital, where the department has evolved to be a thriving, vibrant unit with clinical, research and teaching programs.

Thirteen years on, now Professor Pablo Fernandez-Penas continues to run the Centre out of a sense of duty to his fellow human beings and the desire to help people. 

“The most amazing thing about working at Westmead Hospital is the people and the multicultural environment.  Having so many people from so many different areas of the world working together and sharing the same goal which is helping patients get better is the best!” Pablo said.

“Skin diseases are one of the most important sources of poor quality of life.  They can have an effect on all areas of the person’s life, from their mental health to cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.

“We have saved or help to save a great number of lives through early and precise diagnosis and treatment.” 

Westmead Hospital dermatology department staff left to right: Professor Pablo-Fernandez-Penas, staff specialist Tevi Wain, medical officer Dr Victoria Snaidr, administration officer Gee Varghese, medical officer Dr Melissa Peera and clinical nurse consultant Charmaine Peras.

The Castle Hill married father of three, has been instrumental with the opening of nine additional specialised clinics at Westmead Hospital, involved in clinical and translational research and trials, collaborated with three Universities to establish the Australian Centre of Excellence in Melanoma Imaging and Diagnosis – where a network of 15 devices collect data to develop an artificial intelligence system to help with patient screening and diagnosis. 

“Dermatology is one of the few specialties that still use a lot of clinical skills for diagnosis. While the perception is that, as most patients don’t die due to skin diseases, diagnosis and treatments are not important,” Pablo said. 

“More than a 100 medical students visit our department each year as part of a four-day rotation.  We train six dermatology registrars each year and provide teaching to medical students and departments at Westmead Hospital. 

Westmead Hospital dermatology department Professor Pablo-Fernandez-Penas.

“The Centre’s success would not of been possible without the commitment and work of all the nurses, consultants, registrars, junior medical officers, secretaries, administration officers, research fellows, PhD students and overseas trainees that have dedicated their time to make the Dermatology Comprehensive Clinical Centre at Westmead Hospital one of the best places to practice, teach, research and learn.”

Skin cancer is the most prevalent cancer. It has been reported that 2 out or 3 Australians will have one by the age of 70. Of all skin cancers, Melanoma is the third more frequent. Of all cancers that are recorded by cancer registries, melanoma is the 3rd most frequently diagnosed in Australia.

“We have clinics to follow patients on high risk of developing melanoma and other skin cancers, avoiding the costs of treating advance cancers,” Pablo said.

“For advance cancers, we have a network with medical, surgical and radiation oncology to treat these patients.  We have developed specialised clinics around diseases that are in high need in the community or that require expertise and build both clinics and research around it.  

“We run a one-stop-shop model of care, with patients having their clinical diagnosis and biopsy performed on the same day!”

For further information about Westmead Hospital’s Dermatology Comprehensive Clinical Centre, click here.