By Daniel M. Siegel, MD, September 03, 2012
The recent Research Agenda Consensus Conference, held June 22-23 in Washington, D.C., helped determine key priorities for future research in the specialty, identifying cutaneous oncology, pruritus, and performance outcomes and measurement as three of our most pressing research needs. The work of identifying those priorities will bear long-term fruit for all of us. So too, I believe, will the very dynamic and collaborative process by which we arrived at those priorities.
That process began more than a year ago and involved dermatologists and patient advocates from across the specialty. The Academy’s Research Agenda Committee took the lead, developing a survey that it sent to more than 20 different dermatology societies and 15 different patient groups to find out what topics those stakeholders considered to be in most need of more research. The committee winnowed the list of topics down to eight.
Now came the part that I think demonstrates the value of bringing people together to work through a problem. Representatives of more than 30 different organizations gathered in Washington over a weekend to consider the eight topics, select from those eight a more focused list of priorities, determine the most important questions to be addressed in each of the chosen topics, and then begin the work of determining how to proceed with facilitating and promoting the needed research. [pagebreak]
The dynamic process by which we made our choices was a thing to behold. We started out by venturing outside our comfort zones, interviewing one another using a series of questions about the impact of emerging technologies, barriers and infrastructure challenges, funding trends, and new business models on research in dermatology and the potential role the Academy and other organizations can play in advancing the specialty’s research agenda. We ended up talking with incredibly knowledgeable people and had the opportunity to hear a variety of new perspectives.
With our horizons broadened, we were divided into four workgroups, each assigned with the task of making the case for two of the eight research areas under consideration. We pitched each topic based on how critical its scientific and medical needs are, how feasible research in the topic is, and how much impact the Academy and other organizations can potentially make. We kept rotating from room to room until every participant had heard the pitches of every group. We ended the first day of the event by voting; the three priorities chosen became the focus of day two, when we clarified the goals associated with each priority topic, began identifying the stakeholders involved, and started determining the next steps. [pagebreak]
Our collaborative efforts continued after the conference. In August, Henry Lim, MD, chair of the Research Agenda Committee, was scheduled to meet with dermatologist Howard Koh, MD, who serves as Assistant Secretary of Health in the Department of Health and Human Services, to review the recommendations and outcomes of the June conference with him. As the committee and workgroups continue their efforts, we look forward to collaborating further with other dermatologic organizations and government agencies to ensure that our work makes a meaningful real-world impact.
I want to thank everyone who has participated in this process thus far, including the dozens of dermatologists who spent a precious summer weekend together to help think through the specialty’s research needs, and the representatives of several government agencies who helped make the conference a success. Thanks are also due to the staff who have been helping to organize this process since it was formulated last year and made sure that it came off without a hitch, and to the patient groups that helped us at the start of the process and will continue to offer valuable input as it moves forward. I look forward to continuing to work with the people I met in June, and with many of you, to ensure a bright future for dermatologic research breakthroughs that benefit us and our patients.