Business Monday: Island Dermatology promotes preventative skin care

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By Greta Zimmer

With their focus on treating the whole person and their recent inclusion of state-insured and uninsured patients, Island Dermatology LLC is creating a new standard for individualized and empathetic skincare on Hawai’i Island.

  • Lobby at Island Dermatology in Kailua-Kona. Photo credit: Greta Zimmer
  • Doctor’s office at Island Dermatology in Kailua-Kona. Photo credit: Greta Zimmer
  • Team at Island Dermatology in Kailua-Kona. Photo credit: Greta Zimmer
  • Island Dermatology in Kailua-Kona. Photo credit: Greta Zimmer

Opened in late 2018 by dermatology-certified advanced practice registered nurse Dr. Shellie Norman, the clinic was founded on the building blocks of performing tasks with integrity, empathy and teamwork.

May is melanoma and skin care awareness month and the Island Dermatology team is working to get the word out about preventative skin care. They are offering a 20% discount on sunscreen all month and expect the clinic’s recent expansion to allow them to treat more patients than ever before.

In the last five and a half years, Norman worked to grow her services by hiring two providers and adding three new exam rooms, as well as extra office and staff spaces. The clinic now has the capacity to serve more patients while also aiming to keep wait times for new appointments at the current average of two weeks.

In addition, Norman and her certified team are now accepting patients with Med-Quest state insurance, allowing more Big Island residents to address skincare with their preventative healthcare coverage.


“A lot of the referring clinics were so excited because they have no one to refer them [patients] to, so they were thrilled,” said Maili McHenry, office administrator, adding this will fill a substantial gap in helping residents.

McHenry said it’s important to get a preventative skin check once a year, and critical to come in every six months for those with a history of skin cancer.

Entering the clinic, located in the Pottery Terrace Business Center off Kuakini Highway in Kailua-Kona, patients are enveloped in calming shades of blue and pale green, while the clean lines and simple decor maintain a sense of relaxed professionalism.

The comfortable feeling of the space is echoed by the staff who welcome patients offering skin cancer screenings, skin and acne treatments, skin growth removal and medical-grade products.

Emily Burkman, a certified physician associate echoed her colleagues’ sentiments about prevention and awareness saying: “It’s way easier to prevent something than it is to treat it once it’s become a big problem.”


Burkman said many people working in the clinic have had the importance of preventative skincare taught to them through first- or second-hand experiences with serious conditions.

“It makes you a lot more empathetic when you can look at a patient and be like, ‘Yeah, I get it,
I’ve been there,’” Burkman said.

The holistic approach taken by the staff at Island Dermatology is informed by the empathy they cultivate for their patients, which allows them to give complete and well-rounded healthcare.

Brooke Catalfomo, Island Dermatology’s office coordinator, understands the fear of some of these patients as she had melanoma, a form of skin cancer, at 23 years old.

“It really just was kind of a wake-up call for me, how important taking care of your skin is no matter how young you are,” she said.


Keeping in line with their holistic philosophy, Norman opened Koru Medical Spa in an adjoining space with Island Dermatology in October 2019.

Chemical peels and injection therapy, which can be used as medical treatments but are now commonly done as elective cosmetic services, have become expected offerings at the modern dermatologists’ office.

It can be difficult to walk the line between medically necessary procedures and elective services, but Island Dermatology and its sister business have found a method that they believe keeps that line in focus while benefiting their patients and customers.

Koru Spa was recommended to Tracy Foyle, 70, by a friend around 2 years ago and she quickly became a patient at Island Dermatology as well. She has lived in Kona since 1973 and while concerns about sun exposure have taken her to other dermatologists on the island, she has never felt the level of comfort she experiences at Koru and Island Dermatology.

“They’re like talking to a friend…They listen to your concerns, they’re really knowledgeable, they taught me how to be knowledgeable about myself and how to take care of myself,” said Foyle. “It’s just a happy place. I love going there, I look forward to going there.”

Sometimes, Burkman said, patients don’t know if the skin issue they are addressing is a medical or cosmetic concern.

“What I tell people is, when in doubt, first have it diagnosed,” she said. “First, have a medical professional look at it and see what it is, and then we can help you navigate it.“

By having both the clinic and the spa under one umbrella, this becomes a simple process. Once cleared for medical concerns, clinic staff can refer patients to spa services that can help with cosmetic issues.

Kona resident David Perkins, 73, trusts the professionalism and expedience he has experienced in his 4 years as a patient at Island Dermatology.

As someone who had contracted melanoma in the past, Perkins and his provider, Burkman, prioritize his skin checks. His biannual appointments are handled efficiently and adeptly.

Recently, another possible melanoma was discovered on the 73-year-old’s skin.

Burkman was able to get biopsy results within a couple of days and schedule surgical removal at an O‘ahu facility only 4 days after that.

“When you make the appointment and you show up on time, they keep the appointment,” Perkins said, adding this was a refreshing change for him after leaving his previous dermatologist due to delayed appointments and long wait times.

Because the spa services are kept separate from the medical clinic, it is easy for patients to know where the medically insured consultations stop and the elective services begin.

Unfortunately, for many on Hawai’i Island the type of preventative and proactive care that patients Foyle and Perkins experienced may seem out of reach, but the staff at Island Dermatology wants to change that.

In their mission to serve their community as a whole, the clinic offers some discounts to uninsured patients to help offset the financial burden of preventative care.

For state-insured patients, Quest carriers don’t require a referral, which makes it even easier for them to get in for an appointment. Insurance plans that require a referral are HMO insurance plans.

After expanding services as well as hiring a third medical provider, Lisa Jeanson, a certified advanced practice registered nurse, Norman would like to attract a medical or osteopathic doctor of dermatology which would allow them to take even more patients and expand their surgical program to include more types of procedures.

For more information about the clinic and referrals, contact Island Dermatology LLC and Koru Medical Spa at 808-323-2608, email [email protected], or visit their website at

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