There is a shortage of Dermatologists in North Dakota. To get an appointment with a Dermatologist in the state capitol of Bismarck, there is a five to six month wait.
On January 25, 2018 I noticed that I had a new mole on my right shoulder. This mole was different than the other mole that I have had on my shoulder for the past thirty-two years, because this new mole appeared so suddenly, was dark in color, and it had a rough unhealthy looking surface.
From the television commercials that I have seen, and from reading about skin growths on the internet, I believed that this was very likely a melanoma. A melanoma can be benign or malignant, meaning noncancerous or cancerous. You need to have one checked right away, especially if it is dark in color, or has an irregular shape and appearance.
On February 2, I began searching for a Dermatologist in Dickinson, North Dakota and I found that there isn’t one. This is kind of bad, because Dickinson has a population of about 25,000 people, and it is the largest town in southwest North Dakota.
I found that the nearest Dermatologists were in the state capitol of Bismarck, 100 miles to the east of Dickinson. In Bismarck, there is the Mid Dakota Clinic of Dermatology with three Dermatologists, and two Nurse Practitioners. I thought to myself, “Good, this is exactly what I was looking for.”
I telephoned the Mid Dakota Clinic of Dermatology, and I requested an appointment with Mark Ebertz, MD. I was told, “Mark Ebertz is not accepting any new patients, you can choose to make an appointment with either of the two Nurse Practitioners, or one other MD, but their next available appointment is in August.”
I thought to myself, “February, March, April, May, June, July…that’s six months before I can even see a Dermatologist, and I need to get this melanoma mole looked at and removed right away!”
The administrative person at the Mid Dakota Clinic of Dermatology was not rude in any way, but I was very angry, and I ended the telephone call with her. I could not believe the absurdity of having a melanoma, and a Dermatology clinic wanting you to wait six months for an appointment. What kind of skin problem could a person have, that they could figure on waiting for six months to receive any kind of treatment?
I was very, very angry. I write and write about this, but I don’t think that I ever truly convince people how backwards North Dakota is. I thought about this for few minutes at the time, before continuing to try to find a Dermatologist in North Dakota.
I still want to give a big Fuck You!, to the Mid Dakota Clinic of Dermatology. I hope that Dr. Mark Ebertz has some kind of life threatening emergency, where he needs the police, fire department, or paramedics to show up, and they tell him, “We are kind of busy, we aren’t accepting new calls at this time.” Or anything that he needs done, everyone tells him, we can’t help you for six months.
I went on to telephone Sanford Health. I telephoned the Sanford Health in Dickinson, and they told me that they did not have a Dermatologist in Dickinson, to call the Sanford Health in Bismarck. I telephoned the Sanford Health in Bismarck, their Dermatology Clinic, and I was told that the earliest appointment that this particular clinic had was in April, but I could try calling their other Dermatology Clinic. At the second Sanford Health Dermatology Clinic, the next available appointment was in September.
I called an older relative of mine who had had a skin growth surgically removed from his shoulder, to ask him about it, how much did this cost? He said to me, “You can’t wait this long, you need to get this taken care of right away, it sounds like you are going to have to go to a different state to have this done.”
I looked up on the internet, a Dermatologist that I had seen in Idaho seven or eight years ago. This Dermatologist surgically removed a small carcinoma from under my eye for about $140, which required stitches. This was not a big deal for him, or difficult for him, and he did a very good job, not leaving any scar.
I telephoned his office in Idaho, and he had appointments available each week in February. I explained that I was working in North Dakota, and I could not get this taken care of in North Dakota. I explained that it was a twelve to fourteen hour drive one way to get there, I would have to drive there to get this melanoma removed, and then drive right back to North Dakota to return to work on time.
I e-mailed to the Dermatologist in Idaho, three photographs of my melanoma mole. I followed up with a phone call to the Dermatologist administrator, saying that I didn’t want a biopsy, and that I was not looking for a preliminary visit prior to surgery, that I needed to get this melanoma mole surgically removed, and then drive right back to North Dakota. The expected cost was $300 to $800, depending on how much they had to cut out.
I am not looking forward to this twelve to fourteen hour drive to Idaho, and the twelve to fourteen hour drive back to Dickinson, North Dakota. The gasoline cost alone will be $350. The weather this month has consistently been below 0 degrees Fahrenheit. I know that the interstates will be snowy and icy the whole way. If my vehicle breaks down, especially at night, I will be in a very dangerous situation, due to the extreme cold weather.