By Seemal R. Desai, MD, FAAD
Our participation in grassroots actions is vital for a small specialty like dermatology. Contacting decision makers on health policy issues important to dermatology makes a tangible difference on potential laws and regulations. Furthermore, federal health care reform has led to an even greater government scrutiny of our practices; making it all the more essential to get involved at the grassroots level and play a part in shaping policy.
As an active member of AADA’s grassroots advocacy workgroup, I coordinate grassroots efforts throughout Texas. We’ve been working on several state bills that have passed certain stages and are waiting for the next step in the process to become law. The first is Texas Senate Bill (SB) 329, which prohibits minors under 18 from using UV indoor tanning beds. This bill passed both the House and Senate and has now been sent to Governor Rick Perry for consideration. The bill must be signed or vetoed by midnight on June 16, or it becomes law without his signature. Gov. Perry is also considering SB 227, which would permit physicians to dispense aesthetic prescription drugs directly to the patient, including hydroquinone.
On a federal level, we’ve been advocating in support of S 351, the Protecting Seniors' Access to Medicare Act of 2013, Texas Sen. John Cornyn’s legislation to repeal the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB). The IPAB, a provision of the Affordable Care Act, is comprised of unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats and would potentially determine indiscriminate cuts to Medicare payment. Repealing the IPAB is an issue that many in the greater house of medicine have been fighting intensely.
As a leader in the AADA’s Dermatology Advocacy Network (DAN), I distribute targeted messages to Texas-based members, asking them to take action by contacting their elected officials on both the state and local levels. Several one-on-one meetings with both local offices of U.S. Congress and Texas state legislative members have resulted from this campaign.
One-on-one meetings are quite easy to schedule, and the AADA staff can help you prepare. You simply call your local Congressional office (state or federal) and tell him or her that you are a physician, a member of the AAD, and, most importantly, a constituent, and ask to set a meeting. It gives you the chance to exercise your civic duty, build a personal relationship with the member and their staff, and make an impact on policy that affects your practice and your patients.
I’m also on SkinPAC’s Board of Directors, the governing body of the AADA’s political action committee, which determines campaign donations and support for politicians who are dermatology-friendly. In addition, as the AAD delegate to the American Medical Association Young Physicians Section, I represent the interests of young dermatologists to the AMA. The AMA is composed of physicians from all specialties, and we deal with everything from tort reform, to ObamaCare, to issues involving the uninsured.
I’ve been able to get young residents involved in grassroots work through my position as an assistant professor and as the president of the Dallas Dermatological Society. Young residents will be most affected by future policy changes, and it’s essential to engage these members early on. We do that by offering those who are committed to advocacy action scholarships to the AADA Legislative Conference and encouraging them to get involved with committees, as well as attending congressional meetings.
Becoming involved in grassroots activities requires only a minimal time commitment. Simply keep abreast of policy issues affecting the specialty nationwide and in your state, and contact your elected officials to register your opinion. Those few minutes you spend can make a huge impact in the future of dermatology. To get involved email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Desai is a member of the SkinPAC Board of Directors, serves on the AAD Congressional Policy Committee, and is an active member of the AAD Grassroots Advocacy Workgroup. In addition, he serves as the AAD delegate to the American Medical Association (AMA) Young Physicians Section representing the interests of young dermatologists to the AMA, and is the current President of the Dallas Dermatological Society. He is the President and Medical Director of Innovative Dermatology, PA and serves as Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Dermatology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. Dr. Desai's clinical interests include pigmentary disorders, psoriasis, and cutaneous oncology.