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Alexandra Golant, MD: Insights from Olympic Athlete Suni Lee's Journey with Atopic Dermatitis

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Eli Lilly recently hosted a panel discussion with Olympic athlete Suni Lee to discuss the importance of finding a dermatologist who understands the burden of AD.

Suni Lee | Image credit: Eli Lilly

Suni Lee | Image credit: Eli Lilly and Company

Earlier this month, Eli Lilly and Company hosted a virtual panel discussion with Olympic gold medalist Suni Lee, a Lilly athlete brand ambassador, to bring more awareness to patients with atopic dermatitis. In the panel, Lee was joined by Alexandra Golant, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and medical director of the Dermatology Faculty Practice and the Program Director of the Dermatology Residency Program at Mount Sinai; Mark Genovese, MD, senior vice president of Lilly immunology development; and Julie Block, president and CEO of the National Eczema Association.

In June 2023, Lilly announced its renewed relationship with Team USA and announced a partnership with the LA28 Olympic and Paralympic Games to serve as an official Team USA partner in prescription medicine and health equity through 2028.1

Golant spoke with Dermatology Times after the panel to further discuss the importance of patient advocacy, the impact of Lee’s perspective, how Golant helps patients feel that they are in control of their lives versus their atopic dermatitis, and how she addresses potentially difficult treatment regimens.

Q&A With Alexandra Golant, MD

Dermatology Times: Can you please provide an overview of the Lilly panel discussion with Suni Lee?

Alexandra Golant, MD | Image credit: Mount Sinai

Alexandra Golant, MD | Image credit: Mount Sinai

Golant: In the panel with Olympic athlete Sunni Lee, we shaped the narrative of the discussion around her personal journey with atopic dermatitis. I was really inspired by hearing her story, as someone very much in the public eye, of how her disease has impacted her life. I was really empowered by what she shared on how she sought help and how she was able to partner with a health care provider whom she trusted to find a treatment regimen that led to getting relief from her disease.

Dermatology Times: What was your role in the panel discussion?

Golant: I thought it was a nice mixture of perspectives because we had Suni as a patient sharing her story. We had Julie Block, the representative from the National Eczema Association [NEA], and then myself as a health care provider who treats a lot of patients with atopic dermatitis. We talked a lot about advocacy, and I think you can look at advocacy in many ways. Obviously, the NEA does an incredible job advocating for our patients, kind of on a systems level, both with fundraising activities such as the Eczema Expo and a finder feature where you can go in and find providers in your local areas that are comfortable with treating eczema.

In large part, just getting patients hooked into the right person can really change perhaps somebody who feels like they're inadequately managed and change that narrative for them and plug them into someone who's very well-versed with treating this disease, and who can partner with that provider to find a treatment that perhaps is better suited for them. My perspective was sharing some of what we know about the statistics around atopic dermatitis. There are still so many patients who remain either incompletely controlled or uncontrolled with this disease. I think highlighting the importance of finding a dermatologist who feels comfortable treating this disease and can partner with a patient to find the treatment that's best suited for them is important.

Dermatology Times: What were a few of the top takeaways from the discussion?

Golant: For takeaways, one is to remember that you're treating the whole patient. I always check myself before I recommend a treatment regimen to a patient to ask myself, "Could I do what I'm asking my patient to do? Could I adhere to the regimen that I'm about to recommend? Is it realistic for patients' lifestyles?" Because for someone like Suni, it's a perfect example, right? You have a really busy young adult patient who is being pulled in a million different directions. And you don't have to be an Olympic athlete to have those similar demands on your life and on your schedule, so to make sure that the treatment that you're picking is the right treatment for your patient. There are a lot of nuances involved in that. Taking into account your patient's preferences and the impact of disease on your patient's life is really important.

The second takeaway and the step that comes before that is taking time to understand the impact of disease on your patient's life. I always remind myself that we see patients a handful of days out of the year. You might see them for 4 or 5 days out of the year, but we don't always know how the other 360 days look. Making sure you have a good idea of how much it's impacting their life, what are their priorities, and what are the parts of their disease, for example, itch, that are impacting their sleep or their feelings of self-confidence or their ability to do their job the next day is super important. The quality of life considerations, for me, are the factors that impact my decision-making most for these patients.

The third and final takeaway was hearing Suni's story and hoping that other young adult patients or otherwise will feel empowered to, similarly, share their story with their health care professional, or take the time to get into the right hands of someone they feel they can partner with to find relief.

Dermatology Times: Dermatology conferences for clinicians do not always include a live patient perspective. What was the significance of this panel and Lee’s unique patient perspective?

Golant: I think our conferences tend to be fast-paced and filled to the brim with primary scientific data, which is so important to take away. You always want to leave a conference with the latest and greatest information. But, I think hearing it from the patient's perspective, even for me as someone who sees eczema every single day, hearing objectively a patient talk about his or her own journey with this disease throughout the course of one's life is very impactful. It really drives home for me what a privilege it is to take care of this patient population and partner with them so they stay in control of their life. I always say, "My job is to not let atopic dermatitis control the narrative of your life. You're in control of that, your atopic dermatitis should be the afterthought." That's the goal, and I think hearing it in Suni's words really highlighted that for me.

Disclosure: Lee is not currently taking Lilly medicine.

Reference

  1. Lilly announces official partnerships with LA28 Olympic and Paralympic Games, Team USA and NBCUniversal through 2028 supporting health equity. News release. Eli Lilly and Company. June 20, 2023. Accessed June 19, 2024. https://investor.lilly.com/news-releases/news-release-details/lilly-announces-official-partnerships-la28-olympic-and
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