The images should take the place of the patients and the text should take the place of the teacher (von Hebra)

Skincancer909 would not have been possible without the Dermofit project run between myself and Bob Fisher in Edinburgh Informatics, funded by the Wellcome Trust. A list of some of our publications is here. Yvonne (“I’ve worked with two Nobel prize winners”) Bisset and Ben Aldridge, my longest suffering PhD student and plastic surgeon, ran the clinical side involving collecting and collating all the clinical information; and Lucia Ballerini did the computer vision stuff. 

Big thanks to Lisa Naysmith for allowing me to use her videos, and for so much more. Brian Diffey, a Professor of Medical Physics and former colleague in Newcastle, has tried to educate me over many decades on the physics of UVR and the skin. The errors that remain are mine.

Thanks to Reto Caduff. for allowing me to use some of his copyrighted photographs of the faces of freckled women. You can find more examples and details of book his “Freckles” here


We all need bicycles for the mind. I wrote most of Skincancer909 in Ulysses on a MacBook Pro or an iPad. Image databases were kept in Bento (until it was killed off) or FileMaker, and Adobe Photoshop LIghtroom. I used Affinity Designer for some of the art work — inadequacies reflect my lack of skill, not that of the amazing software; and Affinity Photo for image manipulation (on laptop and iPad). Some of the figures were originally done in OmniGraphSketcher and redrawn using Affinity Designer. Some of the graphs and figures were drawn using Hadley Wickham’s ggplot2 and R.

The videos were produced using FCPX and Compressor, and hosted on Vimeo. I used Logic for some of the audio stuff. Guitar bits are by  yours truly — and since you ask, an Epiphone I bought when I was a 17 year old with a part time job in a petrol station — and a more recent Admira classical. I am still looking for an excuse to wield the Strat.

The site is based on a WordPress template and was designed and tweaked by Roslin Design. A big thanks to Romano and Alex at Roslin. I fear that  my demands  wreck their business model, but I have nothing but good to say about them. Real people, with great skills and a focus on their customers. If you want a site building, and advice on how to try to make it easy to use and look good, I strongly recommend them.

Cognitive prostheses

I first used a computer, an IBM 360 mainframe, when I was a medical student at Newcastle in 1979/1980, writing simple programs in FORTRAN and GLIM, and using a file editor (‘much better than Tipp-Ex’) so that I could analyse a large dataset (large then, but not now). Around ten years later, I remember visiting NIH and being shown Gopher, and not understanding what the excitement was about. It was John Naughton who put all of this in a context I could understand, and who taught me that this bit of technology was going to change the world — and not just the world, but my world. (Even if it took me a while to realise he was the same guy I had read all those years earlier, in The Listener). I published a little bit about what this technology meant for learning and dermatology here, paying homage to one of his books (along with his earlier one). I think John’s was the first blog I read, and he taught me that the quality of thought is often better on the Wild West of the web than it is in the often stuffy academic space.

Skin matters

This project is in part about joining the dots. There are two poles to my dermatological world. Klaus Wolff, the magisterial Vorstand I first met in Vienna in 1986, when I arrived there knowing nothing. And of course, Sam Shuster who having rescued me from being a failing medical student, invited me into the promised land where a cutting mind saves more lives than a blunt scalpel. Being with Sam is electric, I owe him more than I can say here. In his now largely forgotten treatise on the pedagogy of the early Jesuit teacher-scholars, De Selby said it best: I would rather be a footnote than anything else one may occasionally find on the sole of a shoe.

And finally: to Lisa Naysmith, my expert derm surgeon, and wife, who knows that dermatologists and dermatology are more than skin deep.

Jonathan Rees, Edinburgh, Summer 2017.

Skincancer909 by Jonathan Rees is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Where different rights apply for any figures, this is indicated  in the text.