The way forward

From the President

Dirk Elston

Dr. Elston served as the Academy's president from March 5, 2013 until March 25, 2014.

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I hope you are reading this after an enjoyable and educational Annual Meeting in Miami Beach, Fla. It is my honor to take the office of president of the American Academy of Dermatology at the conclusion of that meeting, and I thank you for the confidence you have placed in me.

As I take office, I know that there are several challenges and opportunities confronting our organization and our specialty. Indeed, during my year as president-elect, I led a strategic retreat to discuss and prioritize the critical issues that must be addressed to ensure the Academy’s, and dermatology’s, continued vitality. The retreat brought together the Academy’s officers, our Board of Directors, the chairs of our councils and many of our key committees, and leaders of numerous state and subspecialty societies, along with several past leaders who brought their experience to bear on our work.

The strategic retreat identified five top priorities vital to the future of dermatology. The Academy must focus energy on these key priorities in order to ensure the future of our specialty and to be sure we are meeting member needs. A key role of the Academy in the coming years will be to help members adapt to changes in the rules for reimbursement and the growing array of regulatory requirements. [pagebreak]

Health care reform will affect all of us, and we need to gather our best minds to anticipate the possible directions that the implementation of reform may take and ensure that the Academy is ready to support our members. We need data to demonstrate the value of board-certified dermatologists and an effective communications campaign to educate the public, payers, and policymakers about our role in health care.

We need to anticipate how innovations in health care delivery will affect the practice of dermatology. Scope of practice, the use of non-physician providers, and advances in teledermatology continue to evolve and have the potential to change the way we provide care. How will dermatologists fit into new payment models, including accountable care organizations, and how will they affect access to dermatologic care for our patients? We already have a workgroup of the Council on Government Affairs, Health Policy, and Practice examining these issues, and we need to ensure that we are ready for whatever the future brings.

Data that demonstrates the value of dermatologists and the worth of our training and expertise will help us to ensure that dermatologists are treated fairly as care models change. To prevent dermatology from being marginalized, we need grassroots involvement by our members to ensure that the public, our colleagues in other specialties, and policymakers are aware of the critical services we offer and the role we play in reducing the burden of disease. Every opportunity to help a colleague care for a patient is an opportunity to reinforce the value of dermatology. Every time you conduct a free skin cancer screening, volunteer in your community, or offer hospital consults, you are helping improve our collective reputation and enhancing the image of our specialty. [pagebreak]

Finally, while the scope of change may be national, individual states and payers will determine how changes are implemented. The Academy will be working to mobilize our state societies and improve the Academy’s coordination with advocacy efforts of subspecialty societies, state societies, and patient groups. The changes ahead may have profound effects on our members, their practices, and the patients we serve. We can’t afford to be passive and sit by while change occurs around us. We need to engage at all levels, nationally, state by state, and in every community to be sure we have a voice and can influence change for the better.

In the months ahead I will address each of our key priorities, as well as perennially important topics for our specialty, such as educational innovations that are changing the way we keep current in our knowledge, skin cancer prevention and detection, and our role in the broader house of medicine.

I look forward to a successful year, and welcome your feedback by email at