Unlocking the Mysteries of the Microbiome

Tim and Michele Dudley’s gift to the Dr. Phillip Frost Department of Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery stems from a long-abiding interest in skin health.

Michele and Tim Dudley, seated on a lounge chair
Michele and Tim Dudley

A decades-long relationship between a Coral Gables couple and Robert Kirsner, M.D. ’88, Ph.D. ’04, has resulted in a significant and much-needed gift to research a unique area of study.

Tim and Michele Dudley have pledged $50,000 to create the Tim and Michele Dudley Skin Microbiome Research Fund in the Dr. Phillip Frost Department of Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

As a registered dietitian and diabetes educator, Michele’s journey with a skin condition led her to Dr. Kirsner 20 years ago. This encounter sparked a lifelong interest in skin health and microbiome research.

“He was instrumental in getting to the root of my problem and, many years later, when my mother also had a problem, we went back to Dr. Kirsner, and he was able to figure out what was wrong,” remembered Michele. “When my husband and I decided we wanted to make a gift, we started talking about different areas we could support, and Dr. Kirsner mentioned the microbiome and its impact on skin health. As a nutritionist, that appealed to me.”

The microbiome is comprised of microorganisms living in a specific environment, such as water, soil or human body parts. In humans, the microbiome is made up of bacteria, fungi, viruses and genes that live in the gut, oral and nasal cavities and skin. Each body site has a different assortment of good and bad microbes.

“There are trillions of microorganisms in our human body, mainly in our gut, but in our skin, too,” said Michele. “We see when people change their diet to a more plant-based way of eating, less processed food, they change the way they feel, how their skin looks, how they function. There’s not enough research yet on the skin’s microbiome, so we are very interested in looking into it further.”

An Area Ripe for Study

Dr. Kirsner, the chairman and Harvey Blank Endowed Professor in the Dr. Phillip Frost Dept. of Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery as well as director of the University of Miami Hospital and Clinics Wound Center, said little research has been done into the microbiome of the skin. He thinks this gift will make a difference.

Dr. Robert Kirsner
Dr. Robert Kirsner

“The Dr. Phillip Frost Department of Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery, together with Michele and Tim, have a shared vision of creating the future we want through research and innovation,” said Dr. Kirsner. “With the Dudley’s support, the discoveries and advances today will impact patients in the many tomorrows to come.”

Parents of 11-year-old twins, the Dudleys hope this novel research will pave the way for significant breakthroughs in skin health research.

“We like to give back. We are blessed to have the ability to do so, and this is an area we find very interesting,” explained Tim. “Studying the microbiome of the skin has the potential to lead to some important discoveries that could one day make a big difference in our community. It takes time to truly understand these things, but you have to start somewhere if you want to impact people’s lives.”

Tags: Dr. Philip Frost Department of Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery, Dr. Robert Kirsner, microbiome, philanthropy