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Individual photos of faculty member R.L. Dobson, MD (1957) and former Chairs of Dermatology C.E. Wheeler, Jr. MD (1972-1987), R.A Briggaman, MD (1987-2000), L.A. Diaz, MD (2000-2016), and Nancy Thomas, MD (2017-2023) set in front of UNC's Old Well and campus.


  • To foster creative and cross-disciplinary advances in the dermatology research field
  • To prepare the dermatological leaders for the future through the training and educational environment
  • To provide compassionate clinical care based on innovative dermatological therapies
  • To be among the top ten U.S. departments of dermatology

Core Values

  • Collegiality
  • Commitment to excellence
  • Integrity
  • Ethical and moral responsibility
  • Fiscal responsibility

History of the Department of Dermatology at UNC

The Department of Dermatology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine (UNC School of Medicine) had its beginning as a division of Internal Medicine in September of 1952. The division of Dermatology faculty initially consisted of Dr. Joseph M. Hitch, a practicing dermatologist in Raleigh as Chief of the Division, and Dr. George W. Crane, Jr., a practicing dermatologist in Durham. Soon thereafter, Dr. Herbert Z. Lund, a pathologist at Moses Cone Hospital in Greensboro, joined the part-time clinical faculty as its teaching dermatopathologist. In 1957 the first full-time faculty member, Dr. Richard L. Dobson, was added. These faculty members established a research program and an accredited residency training program in dermatology.

In February, 1962, Dr. Clayton E. Wheeler, Jr. became Chief of the Division and Professor of Dermatologic Medicine. The residency training program was reaccredited. An NIH training grant and two research grants were approved; these served to initiate and/or expand the research, teaching and patient care activities of the Division. On July 1, 1972, the Division became a full-fledged Department of Dermatology in the UNC School of Medicine and Dr. Wheeler became its Chair in October, 1972. Outlying clinics were started in 1969 and AHEC clinics were added in 1974. A dermatology inpatient service was established in 1976. A program in Mohs surgery was established in 1980. On September 30, 1987, Dr. Wheeler retired from the chairmanship after 25 years as Chief or Chair of Dermatology and stayed on as Professor Emeritus. On October 1, 1987, Dr. Robert A. Briggaman became Chair of the department. Dr. Briggaman retired from the chairmanship in 1999 and will remain as Professor Emeritus. His successor, Dr. Luis A. Diaz, was named Professor and Chair of the Department January 1, 2000. After Dr. Diaz’s retirement December 31, 2016, he remains at UNC Dermatology as a Distinguished Professor and Chair Emeritus. Dr. Nancy Thomas was the Chair of the Department January 1, 2017-May 1, 2023, after moving through the academic ranks at UNC Dermatology.  Currently, the Department is chaired by an Interim Chair, Dr. Margaret Helton.

For the past three decades, the full-time faculty has ranged from five to eight members, and part-time faculty active at UNC Hospitals has ranged between two and four, with more part-time faculty at outlying clinics.

The first Dermatology clinics were housed in about 490 square feet of space. After several additional moves to larger spaces, the clinics were housed from 1992-June 2009 in the UNC Ambulatory Care Center.  Since July 2009, the core dermatology clinics are housed on the second floor at Southern Village in the UNC Dermatology Skin Cancer Center.  A suite on the first floor at Southern Village was added in 2022.  Dermatology clinics are also housed at UNC Dermatology and Skin Cancer Center at Raleigh and UNC Dermatology and Skin Cancer Center at Hillsborough.  The administrative offices, dermatopathology and research laboratories are located in the Neurosciences Research Building on Mason Farm Road.

The Dermatology outpatient service has shown steady growth since 1952, but records of the number of patient visits are available only from 1965. Patient visits at UNC Hospitals have ranged from 5,500 in 1965 to 16,500 in 1998-1999. Patients seen in the outlying clinics have ranged from 1,700 in 1970 to 7,600 in 1998-1999.  Over the last several years, the total number of patients seen by UNC Dermatology is consistently over 50,000 annually.

Basic science research in the Department has been active since 1957, largely funded by NIH research and training grants, but also by private foundations, especially the Dermatology Foundation, the Army and pharmaceutical companies. The Department of Dermatology at UNC is consistently ranked among the top 30 US programs receiving NIH grants.  Research fellowships have been available since 1962, largely through NIH training grants and most years, one or two fellowships have been awarded.

Research fellowships have been available since 1962, largely through NIH training grants and most years one or two fellowships have been awarded. Resident and fellow trainees have been high caliber, productive people. Of the residents who have completed training, four have become chairs of departments of dermatology, another was acting chair, and many others have held full-time academic positions at one place or other for varying lengths of time. Many of the research fellows have obtained academic posts in the United States, Japan and Europe. Prior and current faculty at UNC have held important positions in all of the regional, state and national dermatological societies. Over the years, publications by the departmental faculty, residents and fellows have made major contributions to the field of dermatology.