Getting back more than you give at Dermatology in Action


By Ron Moy, MD, and Lisa Moy

I’m grateful for the opportunities my wife, Lisa, and I have had to volunteer in the Dermatology in Action event that the Academy hosts before each Annual Meeting. This year, in Miami Beach, the Academy had the wonderful experience of working with HandsOn Broward to participate in the Miami Beach Police Athletic League’s (MBPAL) project to enhance their community center. The MBPAL is dedicated to crime and juvenile delinquency prevention.

Looking back on our volunteer experience, we got to thinking about just how powerful the Dermatology in Action program is, although it takes place just one day of the year.

There’s a feeling of giving back that is different than seeing patients. As dermatologists, we get caught up in the little things, like treating a rash or doing cosmetic procedures. Volunteering puts the challenges of daily life and running a practice into perspective. It’s purely voluntary. You’re not getting paid for it or earning CME credit. It’s one of the best things you can do.

When we volunteered in New Orleans in 2011, it was extremely cold. As we surveyed the area, we came to the full realization that there were so many areas of the city that were still devastated, almost six years after Hurricane Katrina struck. We wanted to do our best to help out in what little way we could at the Lower Ninth Ward Village Community Center by painting team logos to promote education, and building trellises and benches for their vegetable garden.

Our band of dermatologist volunteers worked happily through the day with our brushes and hammers in hand, thinking that the fruits of our labor were our reward for taking the time to volunteer. But the true reward came at the end of the day when the head of the community center personally thanked each of us for our work. He emphasized that our volunteering showed that we really cared. I could only imagine how much this meant to a people who, still living among devastation from six years earlier, felt largely forgotten.

Sometimes, it’s hard to convey to your patients that you really care. But through purely voluntary service, you can’t help but show that you care. That’s what makes a lasting impression on other people.

Volunteering is a good way to remind yourself how lucky you are. 

There are other benefits to volunteering as well. It’s fun to be able to say, “I painted that wall; I put together this structure.” We’ve been encouraging more of our friends to join. It becomes a social thing. The Dermatology in Action program is such an easy way to get started with volunteering. It can be life-changing.

We’re so focused on taking care of our patients and running our practices, that that’s where we give 100 percent of our focus. Through volunteering you realize that these things aren’t that important. You don’t realize this until you live the experience. When you think about it, nine-tenths of the world’s population doesn’t know where their next meal is coming from. Many people don’t have access to the things we take for granted, such as clean water, but they’re still happy.

Happiness is being grateful for what you have. Volunteering is a good way to remind yourself how lucky you are.

In addition, volunteering in the Dermatology in Action program is the easiest way to meet new people and become friends with those in the specialty. It’s fun to work with colleagues and talk to them at a whole different level. It’s also a great spouse activity.

Our only wish is that the Academy could enhance the Dermatology in Action program to do it in a bigger, better way and for more than one day to have more of an impact.

Let’s face it: You can’t work all the time. Step out of your comfort zone and volunteer! You’ll find that you get back even more than you give.

Dr. Moy was president of the American Academy of Dermatology in 2011-2012. He is in private practice in Beverly Hills, Calif. He and his wife, Lisa, have participated in the Dermatology in Action events in New Orleans, San Diego, and Miami Beach.

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