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Laura Bush on Dermatology PA Advancements


Laura Bush reflects on her term as SDPA president, discussing achievements, challenges, and the future of dermatology PAs in health care.

Renata Block, MMS, PA-C, and Laura Bush, DMSc, PA-C, DFAAPA, discussed the growing frontline presence of dermatology physician assistants (PAs), emphasizing their integral role in the health care team. They highlighted the importance of mentorship, continuing education, and collaboration among PAs while reflecting on Bush’s year as the president of the Society of Dermatology PAs (SDPA).


Renata Block, MMS, PA-C: My name is Renata Block. I am here with Dermatology Times, and I have the honor and pleasure to be speaking with the President of the Society of Dermatology Physician Assistants, Laura Bush. Laura, welcome.

Laura Bush, DMSc, PA-C, DFAAPA:Thank you, Renata.

Block: Laura, what did you learn during your presidency? What surprised you?

Bush: I learned that you set out to do 1 thing, and it doesn't necessarily happen that way. But that’s okay - it's just different. For instance, I set out to build a skyscraper, and I really just built the parking garage and the foundation.But that's okay too, because the future leaders that follow me will build each floor, and pretty soon derm PAs will have their skyscraper for the SDPA.

Block: I disagree because I have been following you throughout the year, and I really think you built a small city. You have done an amazing job as president. What is the 1 thing that you are most proud of?

Bush: I would say I'm proud that I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and did things that I didn't think was possible. I didn't think I could get up in front of everyone and speak. I didn't think that I could write like I did. I didn't think that I could pull people to work together as a team, and those are things that we accomplished this year. I pushed myself beyond where I thought was possible and succeeded. I'm also proud that I was able to maintain my house and my family through all that as well.

Block: To give everyone some context: When I became president, I was looking for people on my executive team, and it's strange that you were surprised that you were able to push yourself. Let me just tell you I saw that within you from the day I met you, and that is 1 thing that I want our future leaders to believe. You do have it inside you, and you can really accomplish anything. And Laura, you knocked it out of the park.

Bush: Because we're derm PAs! By nature, I know that we are destined to do great things. We have to work harder at our job just to do our job, and I think it's ingrained in our PA DNA to do that. It's a natural progression.

Block: I agree. I feel like we're constantly pushing ourselves to be better, and that is the nature of our calling. As a dermatology PA, there are a lot of advancements coming down the pipeline. We have a lot more treatments than we did 20 years ago, when I first started, and of course, you started before I did. The landscape for our patients in regard to treatment has dramatically changed. What are you most excited about?

Bush: You are correct; it has dramatically changed. We are now immunology experts. I think we've had an explosion of available treatments, which is wonderful. But what I am most excited about is that in my lifetime as a PA, I feel that we have come so far. We are now practicing with a lot more autonomy. We are becoming the front line in our offices, and along with the physicians, we are just a really integral part of the health care team - more so than when I started. I'm very proud that we have been able to learn and do a job well done as derm PAs. To push ourselves to that and answer the call. So many more patients are going to be helped because we are there. There's such a shortage of visits to see someone, that to train really good derm PAs is just going to be an answer to a prayer.

Block: I agree - we're definitely an asset.I feel more so that we're part of the healthcare community, the team, and you're absolutely right.This is all about patient care. This is all about being seen sooner; the availability of having a dermatology appointment and getting that skincare cancer screening. Getting diagnosed with that melanoma that people don't even know that they have, and that has been done by physician assistants nationwide. I think we are making such a big impact.

Bush: We work really well in collaboration - with our physicians and with our nurses. We work side by side. We are part of that team, and we have come from pretty humble beginnings to just such an integral part. That makes me proud.

Block: I agree; I'm proud of that as well. What advice would you give a new derm PA, somebody who is just starting out?

Bush: Learn as much as you can, be a forever learner, and just take wonderful care of your patients as if they were your family. Always stay on that cutting edge. Do your job well - make us proud.

Block: You’re right, never stop learning. That's the medical profession as a whole, right? Advocate for yourself and become involved - involved in the SDPA. This is how I started out, and I have learned so much about myself and met so many people to collaborate with. Of course, learning more of diseases and the drugs out there, and doing it as a community. What is the one thing that you are most excited about during your last conference as SDPA president?

Bush: The SDPA has looked at the value of mentorship for our new younger derm PAs. We all know that we go to PA school, we learn what they tell us, and then we come out, we get our first job, and we need some training. We learn our school stuff, but we need to learn how to function in clinic. I think that our emerging scholars program, which was meant to be a mentoring type start for the SDPA, was really exciting. We got wonderful feedback yesterday that people learned a lot. They were excited that they were in a room with other younger PAs that were 1 to 5 years, and they just loved it. We are going to follow those emerging scholars and see where they end up, and I think they can become the mentors to the next generation. But let me say that also, on the same day, we had a pre-conference cosmetics course. I thought, “Oh, the emerging scholars is going to be my favorite.” But I went into the cosmetics lecture, and it was super exciting. Dr. Siperstein knocked it out of the park. We did a cadaver lab, and it was amazing; everybody was glued to watching what she did. She was just such an incredible teacher. I think both events I'm super excited about, and I think we knocked him out of the park.

Block: The platforms of both are just incredible, and really give the PAs the opportunity to advance their career. I think it's a wonderful thing that you brought in as president of the SDPA, and I couldn't thank you enough for sharing all of that experience with us. It's just amazing.

Bush: And having a PA who went to space also was a highlight. She was so inspirational and spoke my language of, “Derm PAs can do anything. They just have to say yes and step up.” It just knocked it out of the park for me. I hope everybody else enjoyed it as much as I did. Hayley Arceneaux; I read her book, and it was so touching. I will say there werenot many dry eyes in the room when she was speaking, and we both had sort of a similar message; that the future is unknown and it's full of possibilities. But that's the exciting thing about life and the exciting thing about being a PA so if somebody asked you, do you want to do something? Sometimes you just have to say yes and go with it.

Block: Even if you're uncomfortable, you have to push yourself, and there's always hope. That was the message that she conveyed, and it was so inspirational. Thank you so much, Laura, you are a shining star, and it's such an honor and privilege to have had leadership with you, and I wish you the best of luck.

Bush: Thank you!

[Transcript has been edited for clarity.]

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