Пионери в дерматологията и венерологията: Интервю с проф. Николай Цанков

Curriculum Vitae

Nikolai Tsankov was born in Sofia, Bulgaria, in 1942.

  • 1970 – Graduated in Medicine, Medical University Sofia
  • 1970 – Ph.D. Student in the Department of Dermatologyand Venereology, Medical University, Sofia
  • 1974 – Assistant Professor in the Department of Dermatology and Venereology, Sofia
  • 1979 – PhD Thesis: ‘Clinical laboratory and therapeutic study ofpatients allergic to Penicillin and with Ampicillin rash’
  • 1980 – Specialization in the Dermatological Clinic, Saint Louis Hospital, Paris, under the guidance of Professor Antoine Puissant
  • 1990 – Associated Professor in the Department of Dermatology and Venereology, Sofia
  • 1993–2014 – President of the Bulgarian Dermatological Society
  • 1995 – Doctor of medical sciences thesis: ‘Drug therapy of patients with psoriasis vulgaris -risks and perspectives’
  • 1996 – Full Professor
  • 1996–2008 – Head of Department of Dermatology and Venereology, Sofia
  • 1999–2008 – Dean of the Medical Faculty, Medical University Sofia
  • 1997–2000 – President of CEEDVA (Central Eastern DermatoVenereological Association)
  • 2005–2013 – Member of the Board of the EADV
  • 2005 – President of the EADV Spring Symposium, Sofia
  • 2007–2011 – President of the EADV Honours and Awards Committee
  • 2008 – Corresponding Member of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences
  • 2009 – Consulting Professor in the Department of Dermatology and Head of the Scientific Council in Acıbadem-City Clinic Tokuda Hospital, Sofia

What brought you to Dermatology?

When I was a third-year student, I was invited to the Anatomy Department where I worked until my graduation as a demonstrator (attendant to the assistant). The Anatomy Department headed by Professors D. Kadanov and G. Golubov was the best at our Faculty of Medicine and I decided to become an anatomist. In the beginning of my sixth year, however, guided by the omnipresent providence, I met Professor Peter Popchristov (1901–1973). Today, I always tell my students and postgraduates that I have been fortunate to harbour the unprecedented chance of having an idol in medicine and dermatology, since Prof. Popchristov was an exceptionally broad-minded man and an excellent clinician reconciling a pool of innovative ideas for the future of dermatology. One of those ideas, which I even today consider ingenious, he suggested as a topic for my dissertation. At the World Congress of Dermatology in Stockholm in 1957, he reported the inhibitory effect of Staphylococcus epidermidis on strains of Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pyogenes and many Gram-negative bacteria. He was eager to apply Staphylococcus epidermidis in aqueous solution to patients’ skin with atopic dermatitis invaded by St.aureus. Regrettably, the newly appointed heads of the clinic considered the subject unpromising – in 1970, the term ‘microbiome’ was unheard of. Professor Popchristov introduced me to the frontlines of the dermatology by teaching me, and many others, not only how to best heal my patients, but showing me quite a number of uncharted horizons embodying issues yet to be discovered, examined and finally mastered for our patients’ benefit. This is why I dare stating that in the days to come, Prof. P. Popchristov will certainly remain my idol in the field of medicine.

Who were your most important teachers?
From whom did you learn most?

Prof. Peter Popchristov, Prof. Belizar Bajdekov, Prof. Vladimir Andreev, Prof. Antoine Puissant.

Have you ever been president or in the leadership of an academic society?

President of the Bulgarian Dermatological Society (1992–2013); president of CEEDVA (Central Eastern Dermato-Venereological
Association (1997–2001); president of Honours and Awards
Committee of the EADV (2007–2013), Dean of the Medical University, Sofia (1999–2008).

What was your greatest achievement in your professional life?

For six consecutive years, I have been a member of the Bulgarian Antarctic expedition for a scientific project, concerning the skin physiology. I have been proclaimed honorary member of 17 dermatological societies in Europe and USA

Please list your five of your best publications.

  1.  Tsankov N, Botev-Zlatkov N, Lazarova A et al. Psoriasis and drugs: Influence of tetracyclines on the cource of psoriasis. J Am Acad Dermatol, 1988; 19(4):629–632.
  2.  Tsankov N. High mountain climatotherapy. Clin Dermatol, 1998; 16(6):699-708.
  3.  Tsankov N, Angelova I, Kazandjieva J. Drug induced psoriasis. Recognition and management. Am J Clin Dermatol, 2000; 1(3):159–165.
  4.  Tsankov N, Grozdev I, Kazandjieva J. Old drug – new indication. Rifampicin in psoriasis. J Dermatol Treatment, 2016; 17:18–23.
  5.  Tsankov N, Mateev D, Darlenski R. Skin hydration, microrelief and greasiness of normal skin in Antarctica. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol, 2018; 32(3):482–485.
  6.  Tsankov N, Grozdev I. Tuberculosis- related type of psoriasis. Medical hypotheses, 2018; 117:31–32.

Could you tell us the funniest episode from your professional life?

The organization of the symposium ‘Dermatology and Art’ with participation of the most famous Bulgarian painters and artists. This was an unconventional project with the participation of the rock group The Sop of the Bubo. The artists created an interesting dermatological calendar, ‘Machine for squeezing pimples’ in the form of guillotine, ‘The artists’ and medical man’s muse’, body art and many other unusual artworks.

What was your greatest disappointment in your professional life?

The fact that my best assistants leave Bulgaria. They are excellent scholars but regrettably, only one of them is nowadays a Professor of Dermatology

Apart from Dermatology, what is your major interest?

All my hobbies are in the field of dermatology: art in dermatology, dermatology in poetry, dermatology in the literature, history of dermatology and high mountain climatotherapy of allergic skin diseases.

Who is your favourite composer, writer, painter?

Composer: Giuseppe Verdi; Writer: Erich Maria Remarque; Painters: the Impressionists –Edgar Degas, Pierre Renoir, Claude Monet, Paul Cezanne.

Who would you list as the ten most influential dermatologists in history?

In Bulgaria -Prof. Peter Popchristov, Prof.Lubin Popov, Prof. Vladimir Andreev. In the world -Prof. Robert Degos, Prof. Otto Braun-Falco, Prof. Stephen Katz, Prof. Antoine Puissant, Prof. Stefania Jablonska, Prof. Bernard Dupperat, Prof. John Stratigos.

Who would you list among the top ten living dermatologists?

In Bulgaria -Prof. Elena Obreshkova, Prof. Kiril Pramatarov, Prof. Nevena Berova. In the world -Prof. Lawrence C. Parish, Prof. Jean-Hilaire Saurat, Prof. Gunter Burg, Prof. Enno € Christophers, Prof. Johannes Ring, Prof. Alberto Gianetti and Prof.Gerd Plewig.

What will be the greatest problem for Dermatology in the next ten years?

Undoubtedly, the future of the medicine, and in particular dermatology, is related to digitalization and artificial intelligence. This is going to happen in the nearest future, and no one is able to affect or cease their fast development. The fundamental question, however, is whether the patients will not need the responsive human contact, the caring look, the compassionate human voice and sharing their pain and anxiety with a human doctor. Today, in the hard times of the pandemic, our phones are littered with instructions/pictures of various ailments which we have to promptly respond and treat ‘online’. Is such an ‘examination’ comparable to the one in which numerous generations have been trained to look at the skin of the whole human body, to study the condition of the skin appendages, to check the lymph nodes and to look at the visible mucous membranes? I hope that even in the artificial intelligence age, people will not abandon natural treatments with favourable outcomes, which have been accepted by both dermatologists and patients for years, such as thalassotherapy, high mountain climatotherapy, balneotherapy etc.

What will be the next breakthrough in the coming ten years in Dermatology?

In recent years, more and more dermatology specialists have turned their focus on aesthetic dermatology. I remember a lecture by Prof. Klaus Wolff, in which he said that to become a specialist in dermatology you have to study 6 years at the university, to hurdle through 5 years of specialization and another 5 years of work in a dermatology clinic; all mandatory to attain the required confidence, skills and qualification. On the other hand, to start working with fillers and Botox, it takes 10 to 30 days. I believe that in the next 10 years, the two specialties will be separated since they are fundamentally different, both in purpose and philosophy. One is diagnosing and treating suffering diseased patients, and the other, if not fake, deals with the aesthetic quirks of healthy people.
Note: The Pioneers in Dermatology and Venereology interview was conceived and conducted by Johannes Ring.