By Nancy Price
Ask Dr. Thomas Cortese anything you’d ever want to know about dermatology. He’ll tell you. He’ll also tell you he’s wanted to be a doctor since he was 8 years old, and that his career has spanned 50 years.
Just don’t ask his age. He won’t tell you that.
“A lot of patients who come here ask, ‘How old are you?’ I say I don’t have an age,” Cortese said with a smile. “Our professors in residency said, ‘You’ll be asked how old you are (by your patients). You have to have some way to make it look like you’re making up an age; tell your patient age is what you make it for you.’”
Cortese is a dermatologist with Forefront Dermatology, which has offices nationwide, in Greenwood. Born and raised on the Southside of Indianapolis, he attended St. Roch and graduated from Cathedral High School. He studied premed and chemistry at I.U. in Bloomington before attending the I.U. School of Medicine in Indianapolis.
During his junior year of med school, Cortese attended a lecture at Riley Hospital and was intrigued with a doctor’s presentation of photos of skin rashes. “Seeing the problem appealed to me. I saw diseases involved in the skin and wanted to be a doctor that took care of that,” he said.
Cortese had spent just a week at his residency at a hospital now known as Eskenazi Health when he received a draft notice to attend basic training at Fort Sam Houston, Texas during the Vietnam War. Shortly after, a telegram was sent stating that his orders were to go to California instead. He was stationed at Presidio of San Francisco for basic training and assigned to work in dermatology at Letterman Army Hospital.
“I stayed there for two years,” he said. “I liked the Army and was willing to stay, but there were no openings in dermatology.”
After completing his residency, Cortese was asked to teach with the Department of Biochemistry at the I.U. School of Medicine, where he stayed for 26 years before working at the VA Hospital for 10 years. He also started his own private practice in Indianapolis which was named Cortese Clinic, with his father and brother.
Now semi-retired, Cortese has been with Forefront Dermatology for 50 years.
“I enjoy my job because I can teach patients about their skin as well as teach medical students,” he said. “I can talk to the patients in a language they understand. My father gave me the best advice. He said, ‘Treat them like they would want to be treated. That’s my motto.’”
“We are so honored to have Dr. Cortese as a part of the Forefront family,” said Dr. Betsy Wernli, a dermatologist with Forefront Dermatology in Manitowoc, WI. “At Forefront we choose carefully who we partner with because quality patient care matters. Dr. Cortese demonstrates the ethical medicine and exceptional patient care every single day.”