By Darcy Lewis
The physical distance between bustling Charlotte, North Carolina, and the bucolic hills of Chapel Hill is only about 140 miles. But for Peggy Fuller, MD, the two seem a lifetime apart. Today, she owns one of Charlotte’s leading boutique dermatology practices—back then she was just another kid growing up on the family farm, tasked with a hefty dose of daily chores that would make a city dweller’s head spin. “I started mending the animals at a young age and spent a lot of time with a neighbor who would be described today as
an herbalist,” says Dr. Fuller.
“I believe it was a natural inclination to progress to taking care of humans.”
Not that the road to dermatology was straightforward. It was Dr. Fuller’s final rotation in medical school at Tufts University in 1984. “I didn’t expect to like dermatology, but I was smitten because of the hand-eye coordination factor,” she says. “And I loved the way dermatology combines internal medicine with the cutaneous management of systemic diseases.”
But before Dr. Fuller could move on to residency training, fate intervened. In 1985, her 11-month-old son sustained serious burns, including third-degree burns on several parts of his body, leading her to take a year off after completing her internship. “He was disfigured, including some burns on the scalp and face, and left with some residual keloids and hypertrophic scars,” she says. “The whole experience gave me a sense of compassion, especially given how many dermatological illnesses can be disfiguring. You wouldn’t believe the callous comments adults would [make], not children—they were actually very kind. I’d like to think what we went through gave me an even stronger sense of purpose as a physician.”
Photography by Armando Sanchez