Great question. Some of my answers below will be factual, and some will be personal opinions. Sorry for the verbose answer, as I hope that it will help other readers too.
Fact: All doctors with FAMS are specialists, but not all specialists have FAMS.
You need to first be a specialist, before applying to be a Fellow of the Academy of Medicine. Think of it like an exclusive members club, for specialists in Singapore. It is not a board certification, as they would have completed their “board specialty exams” by then.
The criteria to become a Fellow (taken from their website) are as follows:
Have successfully completed an advanced specialty programme approved by the Academy for purposes of Fellowship admission or is in a specialty or subspecialty recognised by the Specialist Accreditation Board; and
Are of good general character and conduct, as testified by three referees who are Fellows of the Academy of Medicine, Singapore.
Almost all specialists invariably apply to become a Fellow upon completion of their specialty training. I actually can’t recall the last time I came across a specialist without FAMS.
I think you may be confused by aesthetic doctors/GPs with an interest in skin, some of who go on to take diplomas in dermatology. This does not equate to being a dermatologist/skin specialist, who spend much longer training to diagnose and treat skin disease.
Now having said that, you raise a good point – do professional qualifications/specialty training or experience/professional interests count for more?
I know of GPs and Family Physicians who are passionate about treating acne, and have accumulated over 20 years of experience seeing acne patients. They get their patients to come in with every single acne topical and soap product and and take the time to patiently tell them which to continue with, and which to stop; even going so far as to test newer acne products on themselves.
My take, if I were in your position?
- I’d pick the friendliest dermatologist I can find through a reliable word of mouth reference (ask a doctor friend), with a special interest in treating acne.
- A friendly GP/aesthetic doctor with a special interest in treating acne would be the next best option.
As a member of public, it can sometimes be really hit or miss with choosing a doctor.
Some red flags from personal experience would be:
- A doctor who insists that X or Y is the best/only way to treat acne, without taking the time to explore other treatment options with you
- And/or one who makes you buy and use only his range of branded special acne washes and creams, without explaining the ingredients in them that make them effective
In answer to your final query, I’d concur with you that when it comes to operator-dependent procedural treatments (like lasers), accumulative experience certainly counts.
Having said that, the treatment algorithm for acne, be it mild, moderate, or severe is relatively straightforward, and do not involve lasers. If your acne is severe and scarring/at risk of scarring, most doctors would want to start you off with Accutane (isotretinoin).
TLDR: Any doctor is able to treat acne, but some will be less interested/invested with putting more time into following you up closely, and tailoring treatment to best manage your condition. Get a word of mouth recommendation from a doctor friend.