Interview with Dr. Salvador González
After receiving the gold medal of the City of Melilla, Spain, Salvador González, world-renowned dermatologist and Cantabria Labs collaborator, , sat down to tells us in this interview about his experience at Harvard Medical School, his most recent studies and investigation in dermatology, and the areas of the specialty where he feels change is needed.
It is an honor for Cantabria Labs to have Salvador González with us, a leading figure whose knowledge and experience in the medical field and in dermatology continue to represent fundamental pillars for the success and growth of Cantabria Labs in the Health Care sector.
What did it mean to you to receive the Gold Medal of the City of Melilla?
I experienced a surge of emotion that is difficult to explain; it was a combination of thousands of different, deep feelings. They showed pictures from my childhood with teachers from my school and my parents, who always inspired me to better myself. I can tell you that I feel very fortunate and privileged; I don’t need any more honors, I’m holding on to this one, the medal and the pride I felt that day.
With which of the words that the media uses to describe you do you feel most comfortable: dermatologist, professor, teacher or researcher?
Honestly, my entire life has been about “finding out why” and “teaching what I’ve learned,” so when they call me a researcher, I like to add the term “mentor,” a word more common in English than Spanish, and then I feel comfortable with the description.
After twelve years of research at Harvard, what do you take away with you from the experience, both personally and professionally?
Personally, everything, particularly some experiences with my mentors, Dr. Fitzpatrick and Dr. Pathak. They showed me how to be a better person and more intellectually mature, to recognize my flaws, to change them when possible, and to be aware of when to be grateful in life, as I am now in my city, Melilla.
Looking over your entire research career, which are the areas where you think we need to progress mores, particularly in the field of dermatology?
We must make progress in preventing cancer and in diagnosing it as soon as possible (at early stages) if it does occur. I firmly believe that in this day and age no one should die from skin cancer.
What have your latest studies focused on and what significant conclusions would you highlight?
In recent months I’ve collaborated and published several papers related to drug-resistant skin cancer, the application of teledermatology to confocal microscopy, the development of a cheaper confocal microscope adapted to smart phones that can be used in rural areas and developing countries, and photoprotection. Following years of study in this last field, I would say I’ve studied the mechanisms of skin damage from ultraviolet radiation in great depth and now, perhaps even more cutting-edge, the damage caused by visible and infrared radiation, and how to prevent or reduce it using Fernblock®, a compound that I patented with Dr. Pathak and Dr. Fitzpatrick in 1995.
Regarding this natural compound, another study that I believe to be significant is the one I published last month with Dr. Ángeles Juarranz’s group at the Autonomous University of Madrid. The study was designed to evaluate the photoprotective efficacy of different extracts of Polypodium leucotomos. In the study we compared different commercially available extracts, including Fernblock® , and demonstrated that not all extracts from the same fern are the same. Their activity cannot be assumed to be the same just because they’ve been extracted from the same plant species, and some of them don’t even have the photoprotective action that Fernblock has been demonstrating over the past two decades. The study clearly showed that Fernblock is different from other studied extracts and is significantly more effective with regards to cell survival and the prevention of DNA photodamage. At this point, my recommendation is that other extracts should be studied before they are marketed in order to demonstrate their effectiveness.
What is your Celebrate Life saying?
Explore outside my comfort zone with excitement and enthusiasm.