Marking the 75th anniversary of the AAD and the importance of dermatology in America


By Anthony Benedetto, DO

The American Academy of Dermatology turns 75 in 2013 and we are marking the diamond anniversary in a variety of ways throughout the year. In January the celebration began with a special article in Dermatology World on the organization’s history, and throughout the year JAAD is highlighting milestone studies from the Journal’s history. At the Annual Meeting we featured an interactive exhibit which showcased dermatology artifacts and the history of dermatology and the AAD. The exhibit also featured an online timeline, which is currently available on the Academy website. The exhibit will also be displayed at the Academy’s Summer Meeting, July 31 - Aug. 4, 2013 in New York City.

The timeline provides a good visual representation of the many accomplishments of dermatology, from a specialty largely focused on syphilis — which saw a major advance with the advent of antibiotics in the early 1940s — to becoming leaders in the development of a wide range of diagnostic techniques and medical and surgical treatments for conditions that once eluded us. 

A good example of significant progress was the development of isotretinoin, which has alleviated severe acne and subsequent disfiguring scars for many people. In the area of surgery, at one time dermatology treated only cysts and small growths on the body, but over the last seven decades advances and innovations in dermatologic surgery and surgical training have made dermatology the premier specialty in excisions, repairs, and reconstruction of benign and malignant lesions of all sizes. At the same time we have been innovators in the aesthetic treatment of the skin, developing techniques such as hair transplantation, dermabrasion, laser treatments, and liposuction. 

The progress of dermatology in research, diagnosis, and treatment has been encouraged and promoted by the AAD throughout the past 75 years. 

From a personal perspective I was particularly interested in seeing a number of advances related to skin cancer, because that’s my subspecialty — I became a Mohs surgeon in 1978. In addition to highlighting the introduction of Mohs surgery to dermatology, the timeline notes diagnostic advances such as dermatopathology, immunopathology, electronmicroscopy, and dermoscopy, and the growth of public awareness programs aimed at early detection and prevention of melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer.  

As a specialty we can also take pride in the fact that these advances in our knowledge and skills help address not only the skin condition, but also its emotional impact on our patients. With treatment, as our patients look better, they often feel better. We are helping restore a patient’s body and mind.

The role of the AAD

The progress of dermatology in research, diagnosis, and treatment has been encouraged and promoted by the AAD throughout the past 75 years. Through an array of activities including promoting awareness, advocating for dermatologists and our patients with lawmakers, furthering ethical and professional activities, and supporting subspecialty societies, the organization serves as the gatekeeper of all that is dermatology; the AAD bonds us together. 

We are a small specialty, but by unifying under the umbrella of the AAD, the Academy amplifies our voices, allowing dermatology to have a significant impact in medicine. And unify we have, with 98 percent of U.S dermatologists calling themselves members — an unparalleled achievement for a medical society. 

The AAD has also grown to become the preeminent educational resource in the field. Our offerings include the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology and other subscription-based programs as well as CME meetings. Our Annual Meeting began in 1938 with 283 dermatologists and now attracts more than 11,000 medical attendees. Before World War II, many physicians went to Europe to study dermatology, but today the U.S. is the center of learning. At our most recent meeting, nearly half of the medical personnel attending were international dermatologists. 

For three quarters of a century the AAD has been a cohesive force uniting the specialty and helping us to become recognized as the specialty for treating and maintaining the health of the skin, hair, and nails. It’s a great time to be a dermatologist in the U.S and a great time to be a member of the Academy!

Dr. Benedetto is the founder and medical director of the Dermatologic SurgiCenter in Philadelphia and in Drexel Hill, Pa., where he practices Mohs surgery and cosmetic and procedural dermatologic surgery. He is also a clinical associate professor of dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia and section chief of dermatology at Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital in Darby, Pennsylvania. He also serves as chair of the AAD History Committee.

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