Preserve dermatology's voice in the AMA House of Delegates


By Sabra Sullivan, MD, PhD

It’s hard to have a voice in a crowded room. No matter how much you may shout and wave your arms, there is always someone else who could be louder. Imagine, however, if you lost your voice. How much could you achieve with no way to be heard?

As the largest, most influential, and most representative of all dermatological associations, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) is a powerful force working on behalf of the specialty. However, dermatology is one of many specialties within the house of medicine. With so much on the line in the health care arena, it is essential that our voice rises above the din, especially within the American Medical Association’s (AMA) House of Delegates (HOD).

The American Academy of Dermatology Association is a Steering Committee member in the AMA Scope of Practice Partnership (SOPP), advocating on behalf of physicians and patients at the state level. One example of the SOPP’s success is its Truth-in-Advertising (TIA) campaign, which highlights the need for health care providers to clearly and honestly state their level of training, education, and licensing so that patients are accurately informed of their providers’ qualifications. Two studies ― commissioned on behalf of the SOPP ― demonstrate the public’s overwhelming support for a physician-led health care team, but many people are confused about the level of education and training of their health care provider. Materials developed by the SOPP provide our members and other members of the medical community with tools and resources to enact TIA legislation. As a result, 14 states have enacted truth-in-advertising legislation.

The HOD is the only forum where all major physician groups are represented and have the opportunity to present and debate issues openly. Our presence in larger national physician groups like the AMA HOD is how we keep our specialty and our issues high on the radar screen and find allies in other specialties with whom we can work to achieve common goals.

Currently, the AAD has four delegates in the AMA HOD that vote on a variety of issues and have an active presence in the policy-making process because of the number of AAD members who are also AMA members. However, our voice is about to shrink. The AMA recently conducted its five-year review of the AAD to determine the number of representatives it should receive in the HOD, and the number of AAD members in the AMA is down by several hundred. Dermatology could lose a vote in the AMA HOD unless more members of the AAD join the AMA and designate the AAD as their specialty society by Jan. 1, 2014.

Tell the members of your state societies to renew their membership with the AAD then renew their AMA membership and designate the AAD as their primary organization of membership to ensure that dermatology has a voice in the house of medicine. If we’re not there, someone else will speak for us and we may not like what they have to say.

Dr. Sullivan is chair of the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AADA) Congressional Policy Committee, member of the AADA Council on Government Affairs, Health Policy and Practice, and an alternate delegate for the Dermatology Section Council in the American Medical Association House of Delegates. Dr. Sullivan practices in Jackson, Miss.