Alexander Gross, M.D., makes daily differences in the lives of his patients as a practicing dermatologist in Cumming, Ga. He also makes a big-picture impact on the professional as a whole, as chairman of the Georgia Composite Medical Board.
Laser law woes
Dr. Gross's interest in politics was ignited when Georgia passed one of the most liberal laser laws in the country in 2007.
"We were able to get the laser law revised in 2009," Dr. Gross says. "It took a concerted effort on the part of a number of dermatologists here in Georgia, lobbying their local representatives and appearing at committee hearings at the state capital. But at the end of the day, the Georgia Composite Medical Board was going to oversee laser licensure, so they really needed to get a dermatologist on board to make sure that was done properly, and that was where I came in."
Now, Georgia has three important requirements for any person or practice offering laser treatment (excluding laser hair removal), according to Dr. Gross.
"The first requirement is licensure of any nonphysician who is going to operate the laser, which requires proof of adequate education and training. No. 2: We require that anybody who is treated with a laser have an examination performed by a physician, a nurse practitioner or a physician assistant prior to being treated. Number three is the responsibility issue: If the doctor is not on-site when the procedure needs to be performed, there needs to be a sign in the waiting room advising patients of the name of the doctor and how he or she can be contacted" he says.
And tanning beds...
Dr. Gross also helped to advance tanning bed legislation where there was none. The tanning bed law passed in Georgia in 2010 requires that operators have a license to operate tanning beds; informed consent from people using tanning beds before they use them; parental consent for minors before they use the beds (which prohibits anyone under age 14 from using the bed at all); and signs in the waiting and treatment areas explaining potential hazards of ultraviolet light beds.
Dermatologists in other states should look at state medical board involvement as a way of impacting the profession, Dr. Gross says. He recommends that dermatologists first get involved with the legislative activities of their state dermatology societies, become educated about the issues and get to know the appropriate legislators.
Passing the laser law was the first hurdle. Now Dr. Gross is working to get funding for the bill. The dermatologist is also busy helping to write guidelines for office-based anesthesia and surgery. In Georgia, there are no such guidelines.
"When you spend a lot of time and energy in a long-term project, and you see it come to fruition and know that what you've done is beneficial to people, it's very satisfying," he says.