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Amber Blair, PA-C, Shares Innovative Insights as SDPA President-Elect

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Renata Block, MMS, PA-C, and Amber Blair, MMS, PA-C, discuss the gratification of helping patients and the excitement of being on the cutting edge of research.

In an interview with Dermatology Times, Renata Block, MMS, PA-C introduces Amber Blair, MMS, PA-C, president-elect of the Society of Dermatology Physician Assistants (SDPA). They emphasize the significance of innovation, mentorship, and lifelong learning as dermatology physician assistants.

Transcript

Renata Block, MMS, PA-C: My name is Renata block, I’m a dermatology physician assistant, and I am here on behalf of Dermatology Times at the SDPA Summer Conference in San Diego. I have the pleasure to be sitting and interviewing the amazing Amber Blair. She is the incoming president that is going to be taking effect July 1. Thank you for joining us and congratulations!

Amber Blair, MMS, PA-C: Thank you for having me, Renata. It's so good to be here; very excited for what's coming ahead. I could not be happier than to sit down with you for a few minutes and chat about the future.

Block: I want to let everybody know that you have some exciting things coming down the pipeline. What does it mean to you to be the next president of the Society of Dermatology Physician Assistants, and what is your goal?

Blair: I could talk for a really long time about all of those things, but to try and condense it, it could not be a bigger honor for me to sit here right now having this conversation. To be a part of this organization, to be thought of as a leader in this organization - it's wild to me. When I started as a derm PA, I thought I stumbled into this Mecca. The coolest specialty that could ever be, and I fell in love with it instantly. As soon as I got my feet under meand I figured out what I was doing, I wanted to give back somehow. I started working with a nonprofit in the state of Florida, that was myhome state, and loved it, and that somehow matriculated into SDPA. I didn't have a path to become president of the organization by any stretch of the imagination. I just loved what I was doing and wanted to be involved. The fact that I'm here right now, and I turn around and I look back at my path, it's wild to me. I don't do that very often. I normally have a goal, and that's where I go, and I'mvery organized and methodical. But this just sort of organically happened over the years, and I'm just so honored to have wound up in this place. I can't even put it into words.

Block: I remember when you were with Florida. You've done so much for that organization, and it's such a large organization as an affiliate of the SDPA. When you start with the SDPA, it's like you don't know where your path is going to go, but you almost find yourself. You find yourself and you find your passion. Let me just tell you that you being president, it's just a natural finish for you as a leader, and I couldn't think of a better person to represent us. I'm very excited for what you can bring to all dermatology PAs around the nation. The other thing is, you're right. Dermatology is a very, very specialized organization, or special organization to PAs, and being the largest society in the nation, you are just going to take it to the next level. I can't wait to see what you're going to do. What is the 1 thing you want to accomplish? What's the 1thing that you feel is the most important for Amber to disseminate the message to all our members?

Blair: I strongly feel that we are not only amazing in our organization here in the United States, San Diego at this particular moment, but I think that SDPA should be driving innovation for dermatology PAs worldwide. We're going to take a step. We're going to be an internationally recognized organization within the next 12 months, and I’m really excited about that.

Block: I just got tingles just thinking about that because I think that is something that you can do, and I cannot wait for that to come to fruition.

Blair: At our last board meeting, I made that statement. I didn't plan it, and it just kind of happened, and it was so true. The more I think about it retrospectively the SDPA is the extended family I didn't know that I needed, and it has become such an integral part of who I am. I can't imagine my life before it or without it. The people that I've met along the way have just been incredible and the opportunities that I've had to meet these amazing PAs across the country; I can't put into words how passionate I am about a lot of these things.

Block: I couldn't agree with you more that was very well said, and that's how I felt as part of the leadership community. It just becomes a part of your life that you can't live without. You look forward to it, and you look forward to seeing your family members. It may not be a holiday, but to us, it's the summer conference. It's leadership. It's the fall conference. It's getting together on those monthly calls and behind the scenes of all of this, and making it happen. It wouldn't happen withoutall these leaders and this core group of people. We need more people like that. We need more innovative ideas, and we need people to feel empowered that they could be the next presidentsitting in this chair.

Blair: Stepping out of the elevator the day before the conference, and just watching the clings go on the walls and the exhibit hall being built. I get chills every single time, it's so cool, and watching the look on the eyes of the learners that are here. The derm PAs across the country, and the excitement that they bring, the vibe. It's hard to really understand unless you're here and you can see it, feel it; it’s really amazing.

Block:Yeah, it's a very powerful vibe. The speakers – every single speaker I’m thinking, “it can't get any better.” And it does.We've already done the best, but it always gets better. We're always upping the ante and really having people walking out going, “Wow, that was incredible.” And I can't wait for the next one this year.

Blair: I'm thankful to have had the opportunity to bring my son with me, who's 17, and the love of my life.

Block: He grew up with us!

Blair: Yes! For as much time as we spend right on volunteering for the organization and the hours, to have them see what I do at nighttime. What it looks like. It's really cool to watch that. I love it.

Block: He must be so proud of you!

Blair: I mean, he's a 17-year-old boy, so he wouldn't articulate that exactly.

Block: But you know what? It's in him. It's going to come out and he's going to be like, “Wow, that's my mother on stage representing 5000 members.”

Blair: My hope is, if nothing else, that people look at myself, the organization, what we're putting on, the education we're providing, and understand a little bit about what it's like to be a PA. To be in dermatology, to be in medicine, to be a lifelong learner. To be proud of what you're doing.

Block: Do you think he's going to be a PA?

Blair: I don’t know but I’ll tell you what—he's never displayed any interest in medicine. He's very engineer-minded. But last year, he was an honors anatomy and physiology, and he got to dissect a couple of things, and he was super excited.

Block: There you go. It all starts right there. That's a future PA and future president of the SDPA.

Blair: That's what I think.

Block: Well, he's got a great mentor. Thank you for joining us, this has been such an honor and pleasure, and I am so proud of you. I have known you for the longest time, and we've grown together as leaders. This is kind of the cherry on top of the ice cream, and I think you're going to just knock it out of the park. Congratulations.

Blair: Thank you so much. I appreciate it. It's the biggest honor that I could ever imagine being bestowed upon me as a PA in dermatology.

Block: I agree.

Blair: It doesn't escape me that there's only a handful of people that have had the opportunity, and I couldn't be more thankful.

Block: My final question to you is: there's been a lot of advancements in medical and esthetic dermatology. What is the one thing that excites you most? And the second part of that question is: Are you involved in any research that is part of that advancement?

Blair: I love that question. I am very fortunate right now in my clinic to work with a dermatologist who's fantastic, Gilly Munavalli, MD, MHS. We have a clinical research department in our office, which I haven't previously been exposed to, and it's been an interesting addition to my learning experience. I've been sub-investigator for clinical trials more on the aesthetic space and the general dermatology or medical side of it, we do a little bit of both. My clinic is very heavy in cosmetics and device driven areas. I still hold a huge amount of what I do as medical dermatology, but having the opportunity to be involved in research has been really great. We always have a fellow with us. The learning that's associated with that has been a fun addition to what I’ve had experience within the past. I've always worked for Mohs surgeons. This is now the third Mohs surgeon that I've worked with over my career path. I love the surgical side. I love the skin cancer side. I like problems that I can fix, I guess, so to speak, right disease states. I love psoriasis. I very much enjoy acne, especially in teenagers. I find it very gratifying to be able to take a young child or a teenage child that struggles, from a psychological and physical standpoint, through acne, and help them overcome that. Give them confidence. See that change in them. I love that.

Block: I know when they come in, it's like they're looking down, and 2 or 3 months later their head is much higher and they're sitting up straight. That confidence just spills over in the clinic.

Blair: And they're so grateful. They can’t necessarily figure out how to say that. But you see it in their posture. You see it in their faces. I love that.

Block: That’s what it's all about. Now research, you said you do a lot of aesthetics. What is the 1 thing that you love about research?

Blair: I like being on the cutting edge of it. I love writing about things prior to them being FDA approved or public knowledge and understanding behind the scenes. What happens and reporting that, having that insight.

Block: That is exciting. Seeing how it's going to impact like you have that crystal ball of, “Wow, this is really going to impact these patients with this disease.” It doesn't feel any better than that.

Blair: And I think as a PA being involved in clinical trials is really important.

Block: So, principal investigator? Is that coming down the pipeline?

Blair: I've been sub-investigator for a couple of different clinical trials, and I need a little more time in my life to be principal.

Block: Absolutely. It's definitely in her future. Thank you, and I hope to share that future in the future!

[Transcript has been edited for clarity.]

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