David J. Leffell, MD, is an internationally recognized expert in skin health and the founder and chief of the Dermatologic Surgery Program at Yale Medicine. The program, which began in 1988, is a national leader, combining the highest level of patient-focused care with ongoing research into the causes of skin cancer and melanoma.
“I was privileged to be able to pursue my vision of providing exceptional patient care, research and training,” says Dr. Leffell.
Dr. Leffell has treated over 35,000 skin cancer and melanoma patients in his 30-year career. By specializing in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of skin cancer, melanoma and rare skin tumors, he has developed a unique expertise which he has been able to share with generations of future doctors.
Dr. Leffell, a professor of dermatology, plastic surgery and otolaryngology at Yale School of Medicine, derives great satisfaction from the daily opportunity to pass on his knowledge and skill to fellows and other doctors in training. He emphasizes the importance of communication in the doctor-patient relationship. “Everything central to being a doctor flows from that: compassion, understanding, and effectiveness as a healer,” he says.
An internationally known researcher in the field of skin cancer, Dr. Leffell was involved with the discovery of the gene (PTCH) for the most common form of skin cancer, called basal cell cancer.
He has collaborated in research focused on understanding skin cancer in young women. Important new research into why women are developing skin cancer more often than expected was triggered following Dr. Leffell’s observation of the phenomenon. He holds three patents, including one for a laser device which measures aging of skin.
In addition to his clinical and research work, Dr. Leffell has published over 170 papers and has been an editor of the world’s leading textbook of dermatology, Fitzpatrick’s Dermatology in General Medicine. He is the author of Manual of Skin Surgery and Total Skin: The Definitive Guide to Whole Skin Care for Life.
Beauty and creativity also inform his personal life. In his spare time, Dr. Leffell builds furniture from locally harvested wood, and is an avid photographer. He recently published a collection of photographs of northwest Connecticut titled Connecticut Pastoral.
“Art, scientific research and clinical diagnosis—at the microscope or with the patient—all have in common the fundamental element of seeing or extracting a pattern. Once you can see the pattern, you can understand,” says Dr. Leffell.