INTRO. A career as dermatologist and scientist

The content of this website is largely based on my scientific autobiography 'Forty-five years of practice and science. A retrospective' from 2020. In that book I wrote the following introductory texts.

What is it all about?

This  book  is a summary of facts,  memories (which  will not always be correct), here and there possibly half-truths or

distortions thereof, probably a few - whether conscious or not - lies (of course I must make a good impression) and hopefully many anecdotes and other funny facts and events, which will pop up in my mind during writing. Don't think it is a big deal or very special: I haven't done any in-depth research, did not consult outside sources, or requested material elsewhere. The book was written in 5 weeks and more or less off the cuff (this is not the first lie), which has resulted in some duplications. The short time-frame of 5 weeks was possible, because I have collected, saved and digitized a lot of material in the past 45 years (1975-2020), which I count as my career so far. For example, I have a scrapbook full of book reviews and newspaper clippings. Looking through it, when I saw an interview in the Brabants Dagblad of December 21, 1988, the day I obtained my PhD on the subject of Adverse reactions to cosmetics, I was painfully reminded that De Groot can look awfully arrogant (or the lens just opened at the wrong time, that is of course also possible and will almost certainly be the explanation).

A second scrapbook is filled with letters from colleagues in response to my thesis, including a number of big names and founders of the field of dermato-allergology, such as Niels Hjorth, Sigfrid Fregert, Jean Foussereau, Howard Maibach, Matti Hannuksela, Etain Cronin , Jean-Marie Lachapelle, Jan Wahlberg, Carlo Meneghini, and Jose Camarasa. All correspondence following my farewell as a dermatologist in 's-Hertogenbosch has also been preserved. A booklet about my first 500 publications published in 2016 and a chapter about my 'Memories of a former assistant' in Groningen in a 2013 anniversary book from the dermatology department also came in very handy.


This book (now the website) is a form of autobiography limited to my career as a dermatologist and scientist. A warning is in order here: it may be rather disappointing, that of 'scientist'. With a few exceptions such as my thesis Adverse reactions to cosmetics and a number of contact allergy studies (usually in collaboration with others, as a dermatologist working only in private practice I had very limited possibilities) I have mainly been concerned with science 'with a small s', as I like to call it. This refers to all the practical articles on dermatological subjects, the many review articles, the chapters in books and also the books themselves, which I have written over the course of 40 years. However unique some of them were and are (the information given cannot be found as such in any other source), they were didactics rather than science or at best applied science, which has been defined as 'a collection of knowledge mainly aimed at solving practical problems, rather than at the pursuit of deepening and expanding knowledge in general'. Nevertheless, the practical information that can be gleaned from my articles and books will (at least this was and is my intention and goal), through the education of general practitioners, dermatologists, pedicurists, podiatrists and other health care providers, benefit their patients resp. clients, which gives me great pleasure and satisfaction.

What preceded

I consider the date of December 18, 1975, when I graduated and was 'promoted to doctor' in Groningen, as the start of my 'career as a dermatologist and scientist'. Previously, my medical studies (1969-1975) had been largely trouble-free. I don't know how things are at the present time, but back then you didn't have to be very intelligent to become a doctor. The only proviso for passing your exams was that you were able to memorize facts well. For anatomy, a classical education was a great advantage, because all parts of the body have a Latin name in medical jargon. Incidentally, sometimes the usual (non-Latin) medical terminology is completely superfluous and very annoying. Why say or write 'upper extremities ' and 'lower extremities' (still very common today in some medical journals), when you mean 'arms' and 'legs'?

The only time I nearly got into trouble during my medical studies was when I had to take an oral exam after my surgery internship in Deventer. I had to answer questions about the technique of inguinal hernia surgery! And all I had done during the internship was taking medical histories and performing physical examinations on patients who were admitted for surgery. To my knowledge I have not been present at any surgical operations. I would remember, wouldn't I, if I had worn a hairnet, a mouth mask, plastic covers over my shoes and had scrubbed my hands with Betadine scrub for 5 minutes? (quod non; or was it so traumatizing that I have repressed it?). We had not gotten any form of supervision and we were not given any assignments to familiarize ourselves with specific  

surgical subjects. I'm quite sure I would have thought 'WTF' at that moment during the exam, if the abbreviation had already existed then (again: quod non). Incidentally, I do remember the examining surgeon asking me with a sardonic smile, 'Do you have any other congenital abnormalities?' Now I retroactively think: WTF! I do know he said it, but I can't remember what he was referring to unless it was my psoriasis. That I indeed have other congenital ('present at birth') abnormalities, I could not know at that time, these only emerged later. In any case, I apologized for my lack of knowledge of surgery, but indicated and emphasized that I already had a training place in dermatology and that surgical knowledge was therefore not very important to me. The surgeon looked at me pityingly for (too) a long time, and with a D minus on the result form that was given to me I left the surgery department bathed in sweat, never to return there.

The last 3 months of my medical training, from the beginning of September to the beginning of December 1975, I spent in London at the London Hospital Medical College as part of a 'Project of choice' with Andrew Herxheimer MD PhD. That was a fantastic time, which is briefly described in the chapter on training to become a dermatologist . What I didn't mention there was that I told (almost) everyone that I was a doctor. That was a blatant lie, of course, but well, soon thereafter, in December, I was going to take the Hippocratic Oath anyway, and I wasn't going to perform any medical activities in London (I was going to do a literature study on the side effects of antihistamines), so who would I harm with this - come to think of it, rather small and innocent - lie? In the class system in the United Kingdom, being a student places you in the lowest class, class 5. But as soon as you receive your diploma, you are suddenly promoted to class 1, the Top of the Pops! In English society, which is very sensitive to status, as a doctor you are viewed quite differently and that proved to have certain advantages. The social contacts with the abundantly present nurses became a lot easier, I remember vividly and with a smile on my face!

During these months I spent a lot of time with a South African doctor who was training to be a dental surgeon. He had been in a relationship with his married secretary for a while and it had gone wrong, leading to major problems at work. He warned me not to make the same mistake: 'You shouldn't shit on your own doorstep, Tony!'. Mid-December I was promoted to doctor and on January 1, 1976 I would start training as a dermatologist. That period is described below in a previously published chapter from a jubilee book of the dermatology department of the University Medical Center Groningen.

Promoted to doctor on December 18, 1975. The document is too large to capture in one scan, which is why the two A4 halves do not fit together completely. Unfortunately, it will appear at various places in this booklet that dexterity is not my most prominent quality

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