Physician Assistant Researches the Most Effective Oral Contraceptive for Acne Treatment
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Physician Assistant Researches the Most Effective Oral Contraceptive for Acne Treatment

Maura Waldner, MMS ‘22, enrolled in the Salus University Physician Assistant Studies (PA) program with the ultimate goal of working in dermatology, and less than three months after graduation, she is living her dream and reflects on her capstone project research in relation to her career. 

“I have always wanted to go into dermatology. When I was in middle school I had acne, and I met a PA who helped me heal my skin and find the perfect regimes for me,” said Waldner. “I remember when I was younger I was so overwhelmed by the options: topical agents, pills, birth control, or antibiotics. You’d go online and see homemade masks and you couldn’t figure out if it was the food you were eating or the makeup you were using that was causing your skin to break out.”  

maura waldnerAs a result of this experience, Waldner decided to focus her capstone research on finding the most effective combined oral contraceptive pill for female acne vulgaris; she focused on the four birth control options approved for acne by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“Within each birth control pill, there is progestin and estrogen. Progestin is a synthetic form of progesterone,” said Waldner. “There are two forms of hormones in each birth control. Ethanol estradiol which is the estrogen, and what changes between the different birth controls is the progestin.” 

Waldner tested Ortho Tri Cyclen, which contains ethanol estradiol and norgestimate (the progestin); Estrostep, containing ethanol estradiol and norethindrone acetate; Yaz, containing ethanol estradiol and drospirenone; and Beyaz, containing ethanol estradiol with drospirenone and Levolor folic acid. To conduct her research, she filtered through articles from Pubmed and Google Scholar and found individual articles that compared two different birth controls against one another. “Each article had different results, one article would say that a certain birth control was more effective, and then another article would say the opposite,” said Waldner. “At the end I took systematic reviews and analyzed the results to answer my research question.”

Waldner discovered through her research that there are no statistically significant differences in acne treatment based on the different birth controls. However, there were three she suggested patients lean towards if they are trying to use birth control for acne which are; desogestrel and ethanol estradiol, cyproteron acetate and ethanol estradiol and drospirenone and ethanol estradiol.

“I was excited to choose this topic for my capstone research as it was very applicable to my desired career path,” said Waldner. “Sometimes people perceive dermatology as being superficial compared to many other medical fields, but I think it's important that people don’t judge a book by its cover. Acne can cause a psychological impact on patients, and as a dermatologist, I am passionate about helping patients navigate through those types of problems.”

Since completing her capstone project and graduating from Salus University’s PA program, Waldner has been working at a dermatology practice in Medford, New Jersey, and is looking forward to implementing her research in her professional practice.