Cold Iron Truth

Seven things I am grateful for


It’s almost a New Year and a good time to look back and reflect on the past year. Here are seven things I am grateful for.

Dr. Brett M. Coldiron, a dermatologist and Mohs surgeon in Cincinnati.

Dr. Brett M. Coldiron

The wildlife in my backyard provides endless entertainment. Not only the birds, rabbits, squirrels, raccoons, and skunks, but turkey, red fox, coyote, hawk, and even a mink. At some point, I quit buying koi for the pond and substituted dime gold fish. Of course, we cannot overlook the deer, who trash my shrubs, eat and grind the bark off my baby trees, consume my garden (don’t they know tomato plants are related to deadly nightshade?), and shed ticks. They watch me with calm indifference, even when I shout at them.

Most folks hate cold weather, but it kills the mosquitoes and stink bugs, and allows me to build mesmerizing fires. It is time to clean the yard, turn over the garden, plant new things, all without breaking much of a sweat. It is almost time to empty the compost pile onto the garden mixed with the ashes from the fire pit.

Last year’s tomato crop started late but was a blockbuster. I plant heirlooms grafted onto resistant rootstock (territorial seed company) placed under walls of water in April. I cage them up high. I like to stand in the tomato jungle in high summer, invisible for a few minutes, and eat the little cherry tomatoes and think about nothing but how perfectly the sweetness and tartness is balanced. I still have a few on the kitchen counter making that crucial, very late, decision on whether to ripen or rot.

The U.S. Navy cannot be thanked enough for taking my defiant teenage boy and molding him into what is starting to resemble a fine young man. The Navy is what he needed.

I give much professional credit to my office staff and my patients. I really haven’t run the office for years; it has its own rhythm and knowledge. You spend more waking hours there than at home, so being fun and entertaining is important. That said, the hiring and management of employees is the most difficult part of running a small office. The patients generally know to come in sooner rather than later if they start growing something ugly. And I have also been blessed with good health, mandatory for maintaining a small office. It’s been a good ride.

My wife is quiet when I am loud, reserved when I am bombastic, an only child matched with a middle. She wears a child’s size bicycle helmet, but her head is packed with brains. She knows millions of things I don’t. She is terribly organized. I float my crazy ideas past her daily and leave with punctured remnants to patch together into a better weave. We spend all our free time together, which is the way it ought to be.

Finally, of course, I am grateful for my specialty of dermatology. I kind of wandered into dermatology after internal medicine, and after seriously considering cardiology. It is a happy and joyous specialty with enough cures and successes to keep gloom and hopelessness at bay. I look forward to going to work and get great satisfaction from my work. I have continued to improve in this field, which gives so much more than it takes.

So enjoy the New Year! Take time to build a roaring fire, buy quirky gifts for your staff, get your spouses or significant others whatever they want, and enjoy your specialty as a dermatologist. You are in one of the best places in the world.

Dr. Coldiron is in private practice but maintains a clinical assistant professorship at the University of Cincinnati. He cares for patients, teaches medical students and residents, and has several active clinical research projects. Dr. Coldiron is the author of more than 80 scientific letters, papers, and several book chapters, and he speaks frequently on a variety of topics. He is a past president of the American Academy of Dermatology. Write to him at

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