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Renata Block, PA-C, Reflects on Dermatology Innovations in 2023

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2023 was full of advancements in both medical and cosmetic dermatology, and 2024 is shaping up to be just as exciting.

“Right now is such an exciting time and we've come so far in the last 12 months. I'm excited to see what 2024 brings,” said Renata Block, MMS, PA-C, in an interview with Dermatology Times to discuss innovations in 2023. Block, a board-certified physician assistant at Derm Chic in Chicago, Illinois, and a member of the Dermatology Times Editorial Advisory Board, reviewed impactful advancements in medical and cosmetic dermatology in 2023.

Additionally, Block looked ahead to 2024 innovation, including more to come with artificial intelligence.

Transcript

Renata Block, MMS, PA-C: Hi, my name is Renata Block. I am a board-certified physician assistant specializing in dermatology in Chicago, Illinois.

Dermatology Times: What are a couple of advancements in medical dermatology this year that you have found the most impactful?

Block: The immunological focus on skin diseases has been very impactful in 2023. We are focusing and honing in on diseases such as vitiligo, prurigo nodularis, urticaria, hidradenitis suppurativa, eczema, alopecia areata, and more. It is such an exciting time because we are discovering how powerful the immune system is in affecting these diseases. And the pharmaceutical companies are really honing in and targeting these treatments. And it's something that we've never had before so I feel like that made a big splash in 2023.

Dermatology Times: What are a couple of advancements in cosmetic/aesthetic dermatology this year that you have found the most impactful?

Block: Number one, skin appearance, self-esteem, and quality of life have really been the trifecta focus in aesthetics. And I say this because newer neuromodulators are coming out to last longer. We are getting more sophisticated fillers, newer generation fillers, to really hone in on areas of focus but also ones that are going to be moving with the patient and not looking so artificial. So, I think those advancements have been a long time coming because people want that natural look. We are now constantly on Zoom or social media and everything like that. So, we are in people's faces a lot more than we were in the past and people want that natural result. But I also noted that regenerative medicine has come to the forefront of meaning more stem cell therapy. Those exosome therapies have really made a splash in 2023 as well.

Dermatology Times: Are there any specific approvals or new devices you are looking forward to in 2024?

Block: The one thing that I'm super excited about is the AI devices in regard to becoming an adjunct in our practice or helping us or assisting the practitioner in identifying skin cancers. And not only melanoma but other skin cancers as well. And I think we have a long way to go with these, but I know there are a few of them that are possibly going to be FDA-approved in 2024. And again, it's something you know it's controversial because we don't want to rely on them 1,000%, but we have to look at the bigger picture. Why are we developing them? We don't want to do unnecessary biopsies. We want to make sure that we catch skin cancers sooner so we can avoid disfigurement, we can avoid death. We can avoid the exponential cost of taking care of these patients when these skin cancers are more advanced. So that is something to look forward to. And I know that the FDA is closely monitoring these devices, which is so important because we need the regulations. We need the regulations of how they're designed, how they're executed, and how they are used. So, I think it's going to be a very, very big year for that in 2024.

Dermatology Times: In your opinion, what areas in dermatology still need more attention or innovation?

Block: One thing that I noticed in the last few years, which I applaud is really integrative and inclusive care and focusing on cultural sensitivity. And I think that is something that's come to the forefront, but I think we need to work a little bit more on the psychosocial impact these diseases have on our patients. And we really have to look at the patient as a whole and sit and listen. But I also think as a dermatology provider, it is our duty to work with those patients and get that message out, get their message out of how they're feeling and what they're going through. And we don't know because we don't have that disease, but they know, and they could share that story with us. And we need to share that story with them to the community. And I think working together and having this community outreach will make a huge impact, so why not start now?

Dermatology Times: Do you have any closing thoughts?

Block: When I was talking about the immunological diseases or the focus on a lot of these autoimmune inflammatory diseases, I love talking about the gut microbiome and how impactful it is on our immune system. And there's still a lot more research to be done with it. Obviously. But when I was talking about taking care of the patient, like an integrative approach, we have to remember that we're not only treating the skin, but we're also treating what's happening inside. And that's what I was saying with those drugs are honing in on more specific pathophysiological pathways of these diseases, but we also have to look at the overall patient gut microbiome and how powerful it can be of the balance that we need, just in general for overall quality of life and good health. So, it's an exciting time and I think in the next five years, we are going to be looking at this time now and thinking, wow, we were so archaic, and look how far we've come. And I'll be honest with you, right now is such an exciting time and we've come so far in the last 12 months. I'm excited to see what 2024 brings.

[Transcript lightly edited for clarity]

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