Nurse practitioner draws on personal experience to help veterans with psoriasis

| Joe Doolen

Nurse practitioner Lakshi Aldredge, MSN, ANP-BC, has spent the past 27 years treating patients at the Portland VA Medical Center, where she was instrumental in founding the Psoriasis Clinic. She has a simple message for anyone with psoriasis: Treat your disease and expect success.

“Our expectation now is that patients should have clear skin or as near to it as possible. People are more aware than ever of newer, more effective, lower risk medicines like biologics,” she said. “NPF has been integral in educating providers and patients to that end.”

Aldredge believes psoriasis is the last thing veterans should worry about. She marvels at the veterans whose PTSD or heart disease improve dramatically, and those who become more active, lose weight or quit smoking, all after simply receiving adequate psoriasis treatment.

“We need to treat psoriasis like we would diabetes or heart disease. Skin inflammation is a reflection of the inflammation throughout the body,” she said. “We should treat psoriasis to mitigate the risk of heart attack, stroke, liver disease or Crohn’s.”

The Psoriasis Clinic at the VA was established after Aldredge and her colleagues recognized the need for patients to consistently see the same provider and access specialized consultation. “Our veterans really suffer from psoriasis. The stresses of service definitely play a part in the onset and symptoms,” she said.

Aldredge said her background gives her the empathy and passion necessary to do her particular kind of work. Her husband, among others in her family, is a veteran, and she feels “blessed” to work at the VA.

Though many suffer in silence, Aldredge wants her patients to have high hopes. “Every day I see a psoriasis patient, I see a family member who is suffering. When I am able to help patients help themselves, they blossom from being individuals with psoriasis to again being a husband, wife or parent.”

While she does not have psoriasis, she has had atopic dermatitis, a type of eczema, since she was a kid in Sri Lanka, where she “suffered quite a bit.” Many of her relatives also have atopic dermatitis. These experiences clearly made a lasting impression on her career path and the way she talks about patients.

“Sri Lanka saw a lot of another visible disease, leprosy,” she said “When I was younger, I remember thinking that psoriasis was very comparable. Wearing the disease on your skin seemed to cause people the same kind of anguish.”

She credits her mentor, Andrew Blauvelt, M.D., with sparking her interest in psoriasis. Blauvelt, like Aldredge, is a past member of NPF’s Medical Advisory Board. “I really learned from his passion for the disease and his desire to teach about it. I fell in love with it, too,” she said.

Her mission of achieving better patient outcomes is apparent to colleagues. Aldredge talks about her desire to “pay forward” what she has received from mentors by educating dermatology professionals and patients alike. She is the past president of the Dermatology Nurses Association, where she also served on the journal’s editorial board.

“[Aldredge] has almost single-handedly taught an entire generation of dermatology nurses and nurse practitioners about psoriasis and the myriad of drugs now used in its treatment,” said Angela Borger, DNP, FNP, editor of the Journal of the Dermatology Nurses’ Association.

“When I have a psoriasis question, she is the first person I call,” Borger added.

Aldredge is a past winner of NPF’s Medical Professional Award in the Outstanding Allied Health category. These awards recognize clinicians who have made a significant impact on the psoriatic disease field. There are awards in six categories for 2018. Vote for your favorites by Dec. 31, 2018.

Driving discovery, creating community

For more than 50 years, we’ve been driving efforts to cure psoriatic disease and improve the lives of those affected. But there’s still plenty to do! Learn how you can help our advocacy team shape the laws and policies that affect people with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis – in your state and across the country. Help us raise funds to support research by joining Team NPF, where you can walk, run, cycle, play bingo or create your own fundraising event. If you or someone you love needs free, personalized support for living a healthier life with psoriatic disease, contact our Patient Navigation Center. And keep the National Psoriasis Foundation going strong by making a donation today. Together, we will find a cure.

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