Meet Dr. Indigo Smith, dermatologist at Tono Health

Discover how Dr. Zoë Indigo Smith, esteemed dermatologist, leverages her comprehensive expertise and innovative teledermatology approach to enhance patient care across the US
April 29th, 2024 · 6 mins
Meet Dr. Indigo Smith, dermatologist at Tono Health

What excites you about telederm?

Patients often face long waits for dermatology appointments. In some cases, they have to book months in advance to get the specialized care they need. This delay can be a huge problem, especially for conditions that require immediate attention. With telederm, we can offer timely consultations and diagnosis, helping patients avoid lengthy wait times. It's particularly important for those who have conditions like hidradenitis suppurativa (HS), which demand specialized knowledge and can benefit from early intervention.

As someone who's received advanced training in HS, I find telederm incredibly rewarding because it allows me to share my expertise with patients all over the country. It doesn't matter if they're in a rural area or another state, technology bridges the distance, letting me guide them through their treatment and provide support. This accessibility can be life-changing for patients who otherwise might not have access to such specialized care.

Academic and Professional Background

I received my M.D. from Wayne State School of Medicine in my hometown of Detroit, Michigan. I completed my internship at Sinai Grace Hospital in Detroit and trained in the ICU during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. I am completing my dermatology residency at UCLA where I train in medical and cosmetic dermatological surgery.

I have received multiple scholarships and awards. I have authored numerous medical journal articles on HS, hair loss, skin cancer, autoimmune conditions, and skin of color. I conducted research studies at the National Institute of Health (NIH). I completed a medical externship in dermatology at Harvard Medical School's Massachusetts General Hospital. I volunteer as a summer camp counselor for the American Academy of Dermatology Camp Discovery for children with dermatological conditions. I have lectured at dermatology conferences in the US and internationally. I have led medical mission trips to Ghana, India, and Haiti. I was recently awarded a grant by The Dox Foundation for her upcoming trip to Kigali, Rwanda where I will serve as visiting faculty to the medical school and treat patients in the Butaro Cancer Center of Excellence hospital. I serve on a number of committees and executive boards on a national level, including the American Academy of Dermatology Communications Committee.

What excites you about working with Tono?

Tono is changing the game in the world of healthcare. I’m particularly excited to work with Tono because it allows us to break down barriers and expand access to care for patients who might otherwise struggle to get it. Tono brings the expertise to the patient, instead of the other way around.

Tono helps us overcome logistical challenges, reduces wait times, and ensures that everyone, regardless of where they live or their ability to travel, can get the help they deserve. I'm excited to be part of the Tono team and to use my skills to improve the lives of patients who otherwise might not have access to excellent dermatological care.

What made you decide to go into dermatology?My decision to pursue dermatology was deeply influenced by my cousin's experience with vitiligo. Growing up, I saw how the teasing and isolation he faced because of his skin condition affected not only his self-esteem but also his relationships and overall outlook on life. It was heartbreaking to witness how something beyond his control became a source of ridicule and misunderstanding. This experience opened my eyes to the profound psychosocial impact that skin conditions can have on patients and their families. I wanted to be in a position where I could help people regain their confidence and improve their quality of life, addressing both the physical and emotional aspects of dermatological conditions.

What is your favorite part of working in this specialty?

The most rewarding aspect of working in dermatology is the opportunity to connect with incredible patients and make a meaningful difference in their lives. Every patient brings their unique story, and through the course of diagnosis and treatment, I have the privilege of being part of their journey toward better health and confidence. Whether it's helping someone with a challenging skin condition like psoriasis or eczema regain comfort, or guiding a patient with vitiligo to embrace their individuality, each interaction is an opportunity to build trust and offer support. It's incredibly fulfilling to see the positive changes, not just in a patient's skin, but in their overall well-being and self-esteem. Knowing that my work has a direct, positive impact on their quality of life is what makes dermatology so special to me.

Dermatology also gives me an opportunity to engage in meaningful research, especially in areas that focus on quality of life and the unique needs of patients with skin of color. Dermatology provides a platform to explore these critical issues and to contribute to a body of knowledge that can drive better patient outcomes. I find it incredibly rewarding to work on projects that can make a tangible difference in people's lives, whether it's through advancing treatment options or advocating for more inclusive care practices. By combining clinical work with research, I believe I can play a role in shaping a more empathetic and effective approach to dermatology.

What is an exciting development in your area of medicine?

One of the most exciting developments in dermatology is the use of Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) and stem cells for both medical and cosmetic applications. PRP therapy involves concentrating platelets from the patient's own blood to create a potent solution that can stimulate tissue regeneration, enhance healing, and promote hair growth. This technique has gained popularity in cosmetic dermatology for its ability to rejuvenate skin, reduce fine lines, and improve hair density in cases of hair loss. Stem cells, on the other hand, offer a promising avenue for regenerative medicine, with the potential to repair damaged skin and even restore pigment in conditions like vitiligo. These innovative therapies are reshaping the field of dermatology by providing more personalized and minimally invasive treatment options, allowing dermatologists to address a wide range of skin and hair conditions with greater precision and effectiveness.

What advice do you have for people looking to take better care of their skin?

Taking care of your skin involves a comprehensive approach that includes protection, lifestyle choices, and professional guidance. First and foremost, it's crucial to avoid excessive sun exposure, as UV radiation is a leading cause of skin damage, premature aging, and skin cancer. Always wear sunscreen with broad-spectrum protection and at least SPF 30, and reapply it every two hours, especially when outdoors. Staying hydrated is equally important, as well-hydrated skin tends to be healthier and more resilient. Avoiding tobacco use is another key factor, as smoking can lead to premature wrinkles, loss of elasticity, and a dull complexion. Finally, it's essential to understand any underlying skin conditions by seeking evaluation and advice from a dermatologist. A dermatologist can help you identify specific issues, recommend appropriate treatments, and guide you on how to maintain healthy skin. By combining these practices, you'll be taking significant steps toward keeping your skin in its best condition.

What do you like to do outside of work?

Outside of work, I find joy in soaking up the beauty of sunny Los Angeles, whether it's through scenic hikes, yoga, or relaxing at the beach. The stunning landscapes and vibrant energy of the city provide the perfect backdrop for my favorite activities. I love exploring the trails, taking in the panoramic views, and finding peace on a yoga mat, all while appreciating the unique charm of LA. The beach is another favorite spot, where I can unwind and enjoy the sound of the waves, always with my sunscreen on, of course! These activities help me recharge and stay connected to the natural beauty that surrounds me, offering a balance to the busy pace of city life.