New AAD president looks ahead

March 1, 2007

Washington - The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) must "clearly articulate its global role" as it moves into the future, says newly installed president Diane Baker, M.D.

Dr. Baker, clinical professor, department of dermatology, Oregon Health Sciences University, and private practitioner in Portland, Ore., summarized her vision for the future during a plenary session at the 65th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology here in February.

Defining a global role

This influence must not be underestimated, she says - 20 percent of the association's members are international, and more than a quarter of attendees at this year's annual meeting were from abroad.

The implications of such a global reach are enormous for the AAD, the largest dermatologic organization in the world and the largest purveyor of post-graduate education, Dr. Baker says.

The Committee on International Affairs and the Education and Volunteer Abroad Committee are thinking strategically and striving to define, qualify and build upon the AAD's role internationally, she says.

Work force woes

With access to dermatologists currently limited for many patients, it is imperative to address who will provide dermatological care in the future, Dr. Baker contends.

The onus is on dermatologists, and those involved in dermatological care, to recognize and address this issue - in essence, to be proactive, she says.

"We need to consider more formal training programs for ... physician extenders," in order to ensure that these providers are skilled and able to deliver quality dermatologic care, she says.

"To ignore (the dermatologist shortage) is to let the future happen to us, rather than to shape it."

Dr. Baker notes many practices now employ registered nurses and other healthcare practitioners to help meet the growing demand for dermatologic care. In fact, fully 30 percent of practices employ physician extenders, according to the 2005 Practice Profile Survey. And very few of these practitioners have training specific to dermatology before assuming their new roles - experience is mainly gained on the job, Dr. Baker says.

R & D issues

Today is a time of phenomenal discovery, research and advancement in all aspects of medicine, and the contributions derived from study of the skin should not be underestimated, Dr. Baker says.

"Supporting and financing skin disease research is a big call" for dermatologists and the AAD, she says.

One of the challenges the AAD will face is how to articulate the importance of research breakthroughs regarding the skin.

Examples of important dermatology-related contributions include that of Douglas Lowy, M.D., who participated in the development of the vaccine Gardasil (Merck), recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration for certain strains of human papillomavirus, Dr. Baker notes. Such dermatologic contributions must be recognized and made known, she says.

To this end, the AAD is establishing a department of science and research, the role of which is being developed and defined, but which may offer - among other things - a "clearinghouse" for information on rare or unusual diseases that physicians can access as an aid in diagnosing and formulating treatment plans.

Such contributions are recognized within the AAD by the Astellas Award to Honor Research. Current recipients include Dr. Lowy, in addition to Martin Weinstock, M.D., and the department of dermatology at the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.

Take-home message

"With a clear eye to the task at hand, we will forge ahead" despite challenges, Dr. Baker tells dermatologists.