By Bruce A. Brod, MD
In the last few years, many of us have turned our attention to the federal government, concerned with how health care reform might affect the practice of dermatology. While it makes perfect sense for us to focus on what’s happening at the national level, many of the most important decisions about how medicine is — or isn’t — regulated are made at the state level.
Fortunately, most states have societies that have been unwaveringly focused on ensuring that our specialty’s concerns at the local level are addressed. State societies have been active on issues including restricting the use of tanning beds for minors, protecting dermatologists’ ability to offer office-based surgery, truth in advertising and appropriate identification of health care professionals, the scope of practice of non-physician providers, among many other issues brought in front of state legislators.
State societies are essential in advocating our specialty’s needs at the local level. However, a state society’s influence is only as strong as its most vocal and active members. That is why it is vital to become involved in your state society. Working within your state society to contact decision makers on health policy makes a tangible difference on potential laws and regulations.
Let’s look at the tanning bed issue, for example. State societies have worked closely with the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AADA) to support legislation limiting use of tanning beds. This month, Nevada and Texas became the latest states to pass legislation that limits the use of indoor tanning by young people. New Jersey and New York have passed legislation prohibiting minors under the age of 17 from using indoor tanning devices. California, Oregon, Vermont, Howard County, Md., and Springfield and Chicago, Ill., have passed laws prohibiting the use of indoor tanning devices by minors under the age of 18. Statewide legislation currently is being considered by the governor in Illinois.
In addition to their powerful role in advocacy, state societies offer robust opportunities in education and training. Most state annual meetings focus on education and keeping members abreast of new treatments, trends in practice management, as well as obstacles and opportunities facing our specialty. In addition, becoming involved in your state society will offer opportunities to develop leadership skills that could prepare you for a role at the state and national level.
The Academy has created resources to help you contact your state society and get involved at a state level. The state advocacy toolkit covers important state level issues including medical spa standards, indoor tanning, cosmetic medical procedure taxes, truth in advertising, and much more. It offers important background information on these topics, as well as fact sheets you can bring when you meet with legislators. It also includes media outreach tools, such as sample op-eds and letters to the editor.
Dr. Brod is chair of the AAD’s State Policy Committee, and he also serves as advisor to AAD’s State Society Development Task Force. He is a clinical associate professor of dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine.