Renata Block, MMS, PA-C, delves into the important and ever-evolving role of physician assistants in dermatology.
Renata Block, MMS, PA-C, is a dermatology physician assistant practicing at Advanced Dermatology & Aesthetic Medicine in Chicago, Illinois. She is also the chair of the Dermatology PA Foundation and a past president of the Society of Dermatology Physician Assistants (SDPA).
Block spoke with Dermatology Times at the 2023 SDPA fall conference in Nashville, TN, to discuss the role of the dermatology PA and her hopes for a collaborative future with patients at the heart of the conversation.
"I think really bringing all of it together and being on an equal playing field, I think is the most important thing that we can strive to do, because ultimately, it affects patients," Block said. "Our ultimate goal is to take care of those people, educate them about their disease, and help them manage their chronic diseases. I think if we do it as a collaboration, the patient wins."
Renata Block, MMS, PA-C: Hi, my name is Renata Block. I'm a dermatology physician assistant here at the SDPA fall conference in Nashville. I am the current chair of the Dermatology PA Foundation, which is a supporting organization of the SDPA.
Dermatology Times: What are you looking forward to at this week's conference?
Block: The best thing about the SDPA conferences in general is the networking and really getting together with your colleagues across the country that you have maybe known personally or and have not seen in a while, or maybe even met through social media like LinkedIn, or Instagram, or maybe just heard about them, their name, and you finally get to meet that person and collaborate with that person, and really just exchange stories about your dermatology practice, your experiences. That is it in a nutshell.
But the most important thing is the CME, the stellar CME, the stellar lectures. The conference is full of pearls as well as the best medical education. I think as far as our profession, we have really grown, and I think that momentum is getting stronger, and we are being recognized as part of the health care team. I think that first and foremost, the most important, feeling like you are part of that health care team in the dermatology round, is amazing, because I think allowing that dermatology PA provider to grow along with their collaborating physician is of the utmost importance.
Dermatology Times: What is new or upcoming in dermatology that excites you as a PA in the specialty?
Block: There's new technology coming out, which I am super excited about. I think the dermatoscopes are really upping the ante in regards to what we can do with them, along with our smartphones in regards to taking better photos, documentation, and really integrating that into our practice. So I'm very excited about that future.
Dermatology Times: How do you hope the role of the dermatology PA will grow in the future?
Block: As the chair of the Dermatology PA Foundation, our goal is to really reach out to the community and educate the community, from the dermatology PA voice. I think that will do 2 things: It will introduce the dermatology PA to the public, or have them understand exactly what we do and the role that we play in the health care as the health care team. But it will also disseminate the education that is needed on these disease states out there that maybe people are intimidated to talk about, or maybe they feel like they have to live with this disease or this chronic illness on their skin, and having them recognized that they don't have to do that, they can actually be seen.
One thing though, I want to point out, is our mission with the Dermatology PA Foundation is to hope to bring a page on our website where people can find a derm PA immediately. We are part of the dermatology practice, we have collaborating physicians, and a lot of patients call and they ask for the dermatologist, which they cannot get into for 3, 4, 5, 6 months. But if the public knows that dermatology PAs are available, and they can be seen that day, that week, I think that will just be a tremendous public service. That will allow the public to call and say, "Hey, I live in Chicago, I'm at this zip code. My eczema is flaring I need to get in; I need to get treated right away; I need to get a prescription for HS; I need to get my lesions drained or injected. I'm in a lot of pain; I need to get in now." This will allow the public to go and put the zip code in and then find a dermatology office within their community and then be able to be seen immediately, which I think is such a great service, and I hope that the medical community will accept it, because in the end, it's all about patient care.
I think the most important aspect of being a health care professional is allowing each professional to recognize the potential of other professionals, such as the dermatologist recognizing the dermatology PA and what we bring to the practice. The dermatology PA, the dermatologist, recognizing the medical assistant that takes care of the patient when we're not taking care of the patient. I think really bringing all of it together and being on an equal playing field, I think is the most important thing that we can strive to do, because ultimately, it affects patients. Our ultimate goal is to take care of those people, educate them about their disease, and help them manage their chronic diseases. I think if we do it as a collaboration, the patient wins.
[Transcript has been edited for clarity.]