Philanthropy, Education, Advocacy Top New AAD President’s Agenda

Incoming president Mark D Kaufmann, MD, FAAD, outlined his action plan for the specialty’s rapidly changing landscape in his plenary session speech at the American Academy of Dermatology 2022 Annual Meeting held March 25 to 29, 2022, in Boston, Massachusetts.

Shortly before the 2022 American Academy of Dermatology’s (AAD’s) new president, Mark D Kaufmann, MD, FAAD, took the stage, blaring fire alarms cleared the packed-out ballroom in the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center in Massachusetts. Physicians calmly filed out of the March 27 plenary session down 2 flights of locked-down escalators and central stairways before getting confirmation of a false alarm. Within minutes, they had reversed the process, grabbed coffee or tea, and were resettled, waiting to hear Kaufmann’s priorities for the coming year.

Kaufmann, who succeeds Kenneth J. Tomecki, MD, FAAD, staff physician in the Department of Dermatology at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio as the elected leader of this 20,500-member association, is a clinical professor in the Department of Dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, New York, and the chief medical officer with Advanced Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery with locations in Florida.

After thanking Tomecki for “his strong leadership,” particularly in the face of the challenges posted by the second year of COVID 19-related issues, Kaufmann saluted members “for their passion, professionalsim, and resilience”—citing their response to the fire drill as an in-the-moment case in point.

“The ongoing toll of COVID 19 has exhausted the patience and good will of many of our fellow Americans,’ he said. “And those of us working in health care have been bearing the brunt of responsibility. But COVID 19 is just the latest assault on our profession. It was embattled on many fronts before the pandemic to the point that burnout has become a serious concern for many of us and now raises questions about whether we encourage the next generation to enter the profession we love.”

Despite that, Kaufmann added, “I have never been more optimistic about the future of our specialty. The reason for that is simple.The need for quality, dermatologic care will only increase. The goal for my presidency is to show our members the academy has our backs and that it is committed to helping alleviate the things that distract us all from our true passion to do our jobs at the height of our license and provide the best possible care to our patents.”

The fast-changing nature of the specialty will require what Kaufmann calls “existential flexibility” to achieve that aim. “We have to stay nimble. We have to not only prepare for change, but actually embrace it. Looking ahead, those changes won’t always be pretty.”

In response, Kaufmann ranked advocacy as a key pillar of his presidency.

Building on AAD’s long-standing efforts in this area, he promised the advocacy team “would remain vigilant” on issues ranging from reimbursement to the current trend that is seeing pharmacy benefit managers acquiring acquiring or being acquired by health insurance companies.

Prescriptions are subject to more challenges from insurers, resulting in more limited treatment options for patients because of cost and more restrictive drug choices and increased paperwork for physicians.. He added, “On top of that inflation is at a generational high, while the conversion factor for the Medicare fee schedule was higher 20 years ago than it is today. How is that even possible? You can be sure that physician payment reform will be a major priority for our advoacy team.”

Education and philanthropy will be 2 other areas of emphasis for Kaufmann’s term.For that latter, that will mean expansion of AAD’s Camp Discovery initiative. Free to families, this program offers children living with a chronic skin condition a one-of-a-kind camp experience.

Kids with conditions ranging from eczema and psoriasis to vitiligo. alopecia, epidermolysis bullosa, and ichthyosis enjoy a full week of activities such as horseback riding,, swimming, fishing, and social events. The goal is to eventually expand the program beyond its current 5 locations and create opportunities for every third-year dermatology resident to serve as a counselor for 1 week.

Education, both for patients and physicians, ranks high on Kaufmann’s to-do list, with ongoing commitments to continuing education, online patient resources, and awareness programs.