Join the AMA to help preserve dermatology’s voice in the house of medicine


By Andrew Lazar, MD

This is the year that the American Medical Association (AMA) is reviewing how many members of the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) are also AMA members. The AMA conducts a five-year review of a subset of organizations each year to determine the number of representatives that each specialty will receive in the AMA House of Delegates (HOD) for the next five years.

As you know, the AAD is the largest, most influential, and most representative of all dermatological associations. However, dermatology is a mere subset within the greater house of medicine. We are fortunate that although the AMA is representative of 130 specialties, the AAD has an active presence in the policy-making process — through our delegate representatives — because of the number of AAD members who are also AMA members. However, to be able to continue this level of involvement, we need you to renew your membership or join the AMA before the April 15 deadline. The number of votes dermatology brings to bear on future AMA policies depends directly upon how many of our AAD members also join the AMA.

If dermatologists don’t maintain a strong presence in the AMA, the specialty will lose its voice in an important venue.

The AAD’s involvement has helped foster relationships with other specialties that have proven to be instrumental when confronted with challenges that span specialty lines. For example, at the November 2012 AMA HOD Interim Meeting, the AAD delegates — along with the Dermatology Section Council — worked with other organizations to develop a resolution that strongly encourages the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to adopt future changes to the Medicare physician fee schedule that are recommended by the AMA/Specialty Society Relative Value Scale Update Committee (RUC). With this collective voice, we are taking steps to ensure that physician payments are fair and impartial.

The Academy is also an active member in the AMA Scope of Practice Partnership (SOPP), which is an invaluable group that advocates on behalf of physicians and patients at the state level to ensure that there are proper regulations in place that combat fraudulent, deceptive, or misleading advertising. The AAD has worked together with AMA SOPP to push back an onslaught of efforts in state houses across the country to expand the scope of practice of many non-physicians by advocating for regulations that require health care providers to disclose their degrees, board certification, and licensure to patients. For example, the AAD’s work with the SOPP resulted in the passage of a Pennsylvania transparency bill that requires health care providers to disclose their titles, licensure and certification if applicable. By working with this group, we have helped focus policymakers on the importance and effectiveness of team-based care, with physicians at the lead of the team.

I cannot stress enough the importance of our specialty’s involvement in the AMA. The HOD is the only forum where all major physician groups are represented and have the opportunity to present and debate issues openly. Whether or not you agree with every decision the AMA makes, I encourage you to become a member or continue your involvement by renewing your membership. Our presence in larger national physician groups like AMA HOD is how we keep our specialty and our issues high on the radar screen and find allies in other specialties with whom we can work to achieve common goals.

If you are already an AMA member, be sure to designate the AAD as your primary organization of membership. Some of our smaller sister dermatology societies are guaranteed to each have one delegate. The AAD, because it is a much larger organization, is able to gain many more delegates. Therefore, it is in the best interest for the specialty as a whole for dermatologists to claim the AAD as the umbrella organization that represents them.

Renew your membership or join the AMA today, and designate the AAD as your primary organization of membership. If dermatologists don’t maintain a strong presence in the AMA, the specialty will lose its voice in an important venue. The deadline to renew, join or update your AMA membership is April 15, so please act today.

Andrew Lazar, MD, is in practice in Modesto, Calif. He has served as vice president for the AAD, as well as chair of the AAD Advisory Board and the chair of the Continuing Medical Education Program Review Committee. He is also the chair of the Dermatology Section Council of the American Medical Association and is the author of 28 publications.

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