By Brett Coldiron, MD, FAAD
At the 2014 Annual Meeting, I assumed the second highest honor of my professional life, that of serving as president of our Academy. I rank it second only to the privilege of being a physician, especially a dermatologist.
Early in my career, I realized that in order to have some control over my destiny, I had to speak up, stand up for my rights, and become more deeply involved in my profession. As a result, I’ve been deeply involved in advocacy for our specialty for most of my career.
My dedication and determination to protect our specialty is what I bring to office. I’m someone who is very happy in his daily work, but very unhappy with outside forces attempting to micromanage that work. I will do everything I can to defend our specialty and defend the right of patients to see their dermatologists, and make sure there is a space for us to practice in this confused new world. But it’s not something I can accomplish on my own.
Dr. Coldiron addressing the AAD membership at the Plenary Session at the 2014 Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado.
At the Annual Meeting, I presented a three-fold agenda:
- To help the individual dermatologists meet the challenges we face as health care reform unfolds.
- To defend dermatology with all my might, on whatever front that presents a threat to our patients and our specialty.
- And, hardest for you, but most important to me, to not merely unite our specialty, but to ignite our entire profession.
The current seismic shift in the healthcare landscape is not only about the economic impact of electronic medical records, the Affordable care act, and debt and deficits. It’s also about the impact of all those things on the character of U.S. medicine itself. Government, with all its layers, its size, and its indifference, is forcing itself further between the physician and the patient. And if physicians lose our connection to our patients, we lose everything, and so do our patients.
Which leads me back to the third point of my agenda.
I have a much more activist vision for our organization. As a result, one of my chief objectives as president is to motivate the entire membership to action. Each of you needs to become involved in our specialty and its future, beyond writing your annual dues check.
At present, only 1 in 10 members is politically involved. That needs to change. We can no longer thrive as a small isolated specialty outside of organized medicine and politics in general. We must awaken the uninvolved 90 percent to the value and the necessity of investing money and time in the politics of medicine.
The American Academy of Dermatology Association’s (AADA) office in Washington, D.C. works closely with federal and state legislative and regulatory officials and their staff on behalf of Academy members and their patients every day. However, the AADA’s influence is only as strong as its most vocal and active members. There are several ways in which you can get involved with the AADA’s advocacy efforts:
- Write to your senators and representatives. Visit the Dermatology Advocacy Network (DAN) to find out how you can send a direct message to your federal or state representative or senator on the most important issues facing the specialty and its patients, or email@example.com.
- Advocate at the local level. Reach out to your state dermatology society or email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn about the issues impacting dermatology in your state or how to become involved. Visit the State Advocacy Toolkit to download valuable resources to educate, advocate and communicate with the public, media and policymakers about pressing state policy issues.
- Join the peer-to-peer advocacy network. The AADA has developed a Grassroots Advocacy Workgroup that is focused on engaging with a geographically dispersed group of dermatologists to serve as conduits of information about important policies between the Academy and its members to encourage greater grassroots participation. Contact email@example.com for more information.
- Meet your senators and representatives. Attend the AADA Legislative Conference in Washington D.C., and learn about issues affecting the specialty, get expert advice on how to get your message heard by legislators, and meet directly with members of Congress and their staff to voice dermatology’s concerns. Registration for the 2014 AADA Legislative Conference opens on April 14.
- Join the AMA. On big issues, the government still looks to the AMA for leadership. So, regardless of your personal opinions on the organization, it’s important that we maintain a strong voice within the AMA. AAD member Jack Resneck is running for the AMA Board of Trustees this June. We’d all win if a dermatologist secured a seat on the AMA Board.
I look forward to your participation, and ask that you join forces by igniting your colleagues. When this fire catches and spreads throughout our ranks, our focused heat will melt away onerous rules and regulations that hurt patients and our specialty.
Dr. Coldiron, a dermatologist in private practice in Cincinnati, Ohio, is president of the AAD. He is a clinical assistant professor at the University of Cincinnati. Dr. Coldiron is a past chair of the Academy’s health care finance committee. He is a past-president of the American College of Mohs Surgery and a past president of the Ohio Dermatologic Association and the Cincinnati Dermatological Society. In addition, he is a past board member of the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery and the American College of Mohs Surgery.
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Related Member to Member articles:
• State advocacy: A success story
• State dermatology societies drive advocacy and education
• A seat at the table with a full plate
AADA and AAD resources: