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An Evolving Field: A Conversation With Renata Block, MMS, PA-C


What are some of the opportunities and challenges facing PAs today? Renata Block, MMS, PA-C, shares insights and reflections on the field.

From social media to practice challenges and leadership, Dermatology Times editorial board member Renata Block, MMS, PA-C, has seen much in her 20- year career. What is she looking forward to at this year’s Society of Dermatology Physician Assistant Annual Summer Dermatology Conference and what are the issues she feels is most important today in dermatology for physician assistants?

Getting Care to the Underserved

Block recently began practicing in Munster, Indiana, from Chicago, and found the difference to be of a culture shock. “I am in a different environment where we treat a lot of underserved individuals that are coming into the clinic beyond the diagnosis,” she explained. “This diagnosis, whether it's HS or eczema or psoriasis, has been around for many years and it's been undiagnosed. Or not treated adequately by their primary care physician. Or it was something that they go to urgent care for and did not get the appropriate treatment. And when we see them, they're beyond the disease state, at least is what I call it. They need a lot of education of what the diagnosis is, what the plan of action is as far as the treatment and management of the disease, and also the education that it's chronic.”

Empowering PAs in Work Negotiations

“When you're transitioning to a new practice or if you are a new derm PA, I think really advocating for yourself and being knowledgeable of what you can bring to the practice and really speaking up for yourself in regards to what you can do, how you can do it, and the why you do it is important,” Block said. “Going in there knowing what to ask for and knowing what you're worth, and not being afraid to ask for things is important, because you know that you can make a difference and an impact—not only for the practice, but for the patients. You need to speak up because you're worth it.”

Engaging in Social Media

Block, who has a successful social media presence, is an advocate of PAs sharing thoughts on social media. “Social media is a very important platform for health care professionals, because we are the voice of reason. We are the voice of correcting the myths that are out there on social media,” she explained. “Patients come in believing one thing because they follow an influencer that really doesn't have any dermatological experience at all.”

“Creating a brand—and that brand is your name—is going to take you far, because it is something that empowers you as a provider. It establishes credibility, not only for the public regarding dermatology physician assistants, but also just as a health care professional in the team aspect of dermatological care. Because if somebody cannot come in and see a dermatologist for 6 months for a skin exam, they can be seen by a dermatology physician assistant perhaps within that week or within a month. This is a huge difference when it comes to taking care of something that is very important, such as an HS flare, an eczema flare, a skin check to diagnose a suspicious lesion and biopsy it. It can be life-saving, and it can be a game changer in regards to the quality of life for that patient.

Being Part of the Evolution

“I've been a physician assistant for over 20 years, and I have seen the change,” Block said. “The dynamics of when I first started compared to where I am today, and being able to sit at the table with colleagues and mentors. I'm talking mentors of the medical doctors that hired us, those who are training us, who are guiding us—this is very important in regards to being a collaborative team.”

“And I can't stress enough how much teamwork really is the most important aspect in patient care,” Block said. “Because it's really not about a title. It's really about reaching out and helping the community, and helping the patient, and making a difference in their lives.”

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