The University of Iowa
The University of Iowa News Services Home News Releases UI in the News Subscribe to UI News Contact Us

University of Iowa News Release

April 22, 2003

ACGME To Accredit New Medical Specialty In Skin Cancer Surgery

The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) recently agreed to formally recognize a new medical specialty in the surgical treatment of skin cancer.

The process began more than 20 years ago when a few elite medical centers, including University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, established fellowships in Mohs Micrographic Surgery and Reconstruction and Cutaneous Oncology. Duane Whitaker, M.D., a professor in the UI Department of Dermatology, founded the UI program.

"There were small groups of us across the country who became very interested in researching and practicing the very best methods of treating skin cancer, especially the most common forms which include basal cell and squamous cell cancer," Whitaker explained. "We saw many patients who had undergone one form or other of treatment - surgery, irradiation, tissue destruction - in which the tumor was thought to have been eradicated yet the tumor grew back, often with destructive and devastating consequences. This presented major challenges because more than 90 percent of these tumors grow on the face, head, and neck. Simply performing a 'bigger surgery' and hoping get rid of all of it was not a good option."

Whitaker and his peers developed techniques in which the surgeon conducted a microscopic examination of numerous fine tissue specimens and coupled this with the performance of the surgery. This combined role resulted in cure rates that can exceed 98 percent for minor or major skin cancers.

Mohs Micrographic Surgery is now the preferred method for treating most cancers of the skin. Whitaker has added training in laser surgery to enhance treatment and restore the patient's appearance.

The ACGME is the national organization that inspects and accredits U.S. physician resident and fellowship training programs in all specialties of medicine. Physicians must conduct research, education and publication activities that form the nucleus that becomes the body of knowledge, techniques and art of a specialty. Physicians then ask the ACGME to formally recognize and accredit the new specialty.

University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine and UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient care, medical education and research programs and services they provide. Visit UI Health Care online at

STORY SOURCE: Joint Office for Planning, Marketing and Communications, University of Iowa Health Care, 200 Hawkins Drive, Room 8798 JPP, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1009.

MEDIA CONTACT: Tom Moore, 319-356-3945,