Dermatologists must teach younger physicians importance of giving back

October 1, 2010

Many changes have occurred in dermatology over the past year in terms of educational funding. New rules have placed restrictions on how industry can financially support programs. In addition to new rules, reduced discretionary industry monies are available.

Key Points

In addition to new rules, reduced discretionary industry monies are available.

Dermatology has seen a tremendous consolidation of pharmaceutical companies that support research and development in our specialty. This consolidation is evidenced by the GlaxoSmithKline purchase of Stiefel, Merck's purchase of Schering-Plough, Bayer's purchase of Intendis, Merz's purchase of BioForm Medical and Pfizer's purchase of Wyeth. It is likely that this consolidation will continue to a greater or lesser degree, depending on the implementation of new healthcare legislation and the state of the economy.

What do these economic changes mean for dermatology? A great deal. Even though we pay to attend educational meetings, such as the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), much of the cost of producing the event is covered by monies paid for the purchase of display space in the technical exhibits. A decrease in the number of companies purchasing booth space will decrease the amount of money available to defray meeting costs. This means that dermatologists individually will need to pay more to attend the meeting.

In addition, dermatologists will need to support more of their outreach activities. This means that more monies will need to be contributed to support the Washington office of the AAD, the publication of dermatology practice guidelines, the organization of CME board review courses and other professional activities.

This need for support will be present at the national, regional, state and local dermatology society levels. Many dermatologists are inundated with requests for money from the AAD, the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery (ASDS), the Women's Dermatologic Society (WDS), the Dermatology Foundation, the National Psoriasis Foundation, etc., and these many requests may seem challenging, financially.

Encouraging giving

This leads to the question of how we cultivate a culture of giving in dermatology. Both the AAD and the ASDS have formed foundations to collect a corpus of funds for investment to make up the shortfall in monies needed for professional activities.

While these foundations are looking for large sum donations from dermatologists established in the field, there is a need for dermatology to foster giving among all practitioners. For many years, dermatologists have needed to personally contribute minimally beyond required membership dues and meeting charges. This has now changed.

Cultivating a culture of giving requires the development of several key ideas. The first idea is that dermatologists need to find value in the activities that their donations support. This means educational programs must be designed to address timely physician needs. New talks introducing new concepts that are scientifically substantiated are necessary.

The second idea is that the giving culture must begin during residency. Residents are highly accomplished academically, and dermatology is fortunate to attract the best of the best medical students. However, it must be impressed on young dermatologists that they will need to "support" to "receive" from their specialty.

A common example of cultivated giving is Sunday school. All the children bring their pennies, nickels and dimes to donate to a fund to purchase a swing set for the playground. Everyone will enjoy the swing set and the collective monies can purchase the equipment, whereas no child individually could make such a purchase. As these children grow into adults, they continue giving and begin to educate their children on the giving culture. Dermatology is similar. We all need to begin contributing based on our financial ability at each time point in our careers to organizations that address our passions.

Passing it on

All dermatologists have received the gift of knowledge and financial support from their mentors. The gift must be passed on. All dermatologists should feel the need, as their careers mature, to educate others and share financial resources. Giving financial support is rewarding in that ownership becomes more personalized. Setting aside $10 per month and giving $120 per year is doable for many younger dermatologists. Setting aside $50 per month and giving $600 per year is an achievable goal for more established dermatologists.

A culture of giving must be cultivated by dermatology. It will strengthen our specialty and increase our work satisfaction. It will allow us to share our knowledge at meetings and remain a small, cohesive group of physicians. It will allow all dermatologists to experience ownership. Cultivating a culture of giving should become our goal.

Zoe Diana Draelos, M.D., is a Dermatology Times editorial adviser and consulting professor of dermatology, Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, N.C. Questions may be submitted via e-mail to zdraelos@northstate.net
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