In Conversation With The American Academy of Dermatology's Camp DiscoveryOmnilux was founded with one goal in mind: to create effective, safe, innovative, affordable treatments that boost self-esteem and help users feel more confident in their own skin. We firmly believe that everyone deserves acceptance and that your skin should never dim your light. The American Academy of Dermatology embodies this belief by providing those with chronic skin conditions access to much-needed support from an early age.
This Skincare Awareness Month, we’ve partnered with the AAD to support its Camp Discovery program to help kids with chronic skin disease thrive in a place where different is the norm. No judgment. No bullying. With direct support from their counselors, medical staff, and each other, campers gain greater confidence in their own skin as they build life-changing memories and a new community.
We had the chance to interview dermatologist and medical director of Camp Discovery Connecticut, Dr. Karen Wiss, MD, and dermatologist and medical director of Camp Discovery Pennsylvania, Dr. Andrea Zaenglein, MD, about the program and how it’s helped make a difference in the lives of hundreds of campers over the last 30 years.
Q. How and why did Camp Discovery get started?
Dr. Wiss: The program was started in 1993 by a dermatologist, Dr. Mark Dahl who wanted to provide a summer camp experience for young people with chronic skin conditions.
Dr. Zaenglein: Our camp in Pennsylvania was started a couple years later by Dr. Howard Pride with Annie Houser and the staff at Geisinger Medical Center.
Q. Most of Camp Discovery’s counselors are volunteer dermatologists and nurses, why is it essential to have medical professionals on staff?
Dr. Wiss: Some of the campers have significant skin care needs like blisters that need dressings during camp. Others have multiple allergies to foods that need to be avoided. Medical situations do come up during camp and it helps to have providers on site. For those of us who are medical professionals, it is important for us to live with our patients for a week and see what they experience on a daily basis.
Q. What makes Camp Discovery unique?
Dr. Zaenglein: Camp Discovery is most importantly a place where kids with skin disorders can just have a great week of fun. For many kids, it is also the first time they have met another child with the same skin condition, and it is important for them to know that they are not alone. For families of kids with more severe disorders, it is often the only camp opportunity where they can be assured the staff caring for their child is experienced and capable of performing necessary daily skin care routines.
Q. What are some camp highlights?
Dr. Zaenglein: At our camp in Pennsylvania, there are so many awesome activities going on every day from traditional camp offerings like fishing and archery to ziplining and rock climbing to tie dying and gimping (or boondoggling depending on where you are from). We all love going to the local amusement park, Knoebels, riding the "Skloosh" and eating ice cream.
Q. How have you seen Camp Discovery transform over the years?
Dr. Zaenglein: I have been camp Medical Director for over 20 years and I think the best thing about Camp Discovery is that it really has not changed that much over the years. The emphasis has always been on ensuring a fun traditional camp experience for the kids. No phones, no computers. Just fun and friends. It really is a magical place.
Q. What is some of the feedback you’ve received from campers or parents after they’ve attended camp?
Dr. Wiss: Campers – the one week they feel normal, they wish they could be at camp all year, they wish the rest of the world was like camp; Parents – life-changing, they made incredible friends, they no longer need counseling for their condition, they are more accepting of themselves.
Q. Who would you recommend attend Camp Discovery?
Dr. Zaenglein: I would recommend any child that has been impacted by their skin disease, mild to severe: kids that experience symptoms like chronic itching with atopic dermatitis and psoriasis, children with intensive skin care routines like epidermolysis bullosa or ichthyosis. Really any child who has been emotionally impacted by their skin disease by feeling "different" from peers.