WDS: Small organization, big contribution

April 1, 2005

I just ended one of the best years of my life! And one of its best aspects was experiencing the value of smaller organizations within our larger dermatology community. In particular, I want to share my perceptions of the Women's Dermatologic Society (WDS), of which I am the immediate past president, and show how it continues to add significantly to the greater whole.

WDS encourages the growth and development of professional careers, primarily by mentoring and creating leadership opportunities. The opportunity to recognize and mentor colleagues at all stages in their careers is a core value. Fulfilling our obligations to help our colleagues is a great honor and joy.

The WDS Mentorship Program has been in existence for more than 10 years and awarded grants to more than 250 recipients - totaling more than $450,000. The value of this program was recognized in 2000 when WDS received the award for Excellence in Education from the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).

The WDS is a "can-do" group. The easy accessibility of our members to each other and our smaller bureaucracy allow for rapid responses to changing conditions, new opportunities and new initiatives. WDS can efficiently mobilize and institute new programs. Our first skin cancer screening at a Ladies Professional Golf Association tournament was effectively launched in three weeks.

Additional skin cancer screenings throughout the country enhanced the visibility of the WDS as well as that of the greater dermatology community.

For many WDS members, perhaps our most successful achievement is the fulfillment of the mission charge: "To provide a forum for developing relationships." Opportunities for professional and personal contacts, friendship and interactions are a particularly enjoyable aspect of membership.

New opportunities As the WDS evolves, we seize new opportunities for peers to interact. The WDS was pleased to receive official recognition for participation in the AAD initiative: "Unity In Community" - promoted by, then president, Boni Elewski, M.D. This initiative allowed closer professional associations among all the societies as well as AAD sponsorship of the very successful WDS Symposium.

The WDS enjoyed partnering with the AAD, in the Skin Cancer Screening Program, another contribution to an important issue. Also, the Dermatology Nurses Association and the Oncology Nurses developed new collaborations. These affiliations further the goals of dermatologists.

The interactions of our male members has been an invaluable part of the WDS for all of our 30 years, and a source of pride within the society. They contribute to and benefit from society training and mentoring programs. They are committee and task force members and serve on the WDS Board. Men have also received WDS' highest recognition award.

The 1,200 members of the WDS work to addresses each other's professional and personal development. Service in leadership of this relatively small group - relative to AAD's 15,000 members - showed me the current and potential role of the smaller societies. The WDS has encouraged (dare I say made possible) professional and personal development of its members, leading them to make strong contributions to the AAD. We not only function within the larger dermatologic community; we further its goals and add talent to it.

The society was built on enduring values. The future direction of the WDS includes a commitment to service for our patients and to fostering a spirit of volunteerism within our membership. The WDS has received a generous grant for increasing skin cancer awareness and education, which will enhance our mission as well as that of all dermatologists.

The future of the WDS will be assured, thanks to the establishment of the WDS Foundation. It also indicates the commitment of the membership to our shared values.

With great pride, I see the role of this small society enhancing the lives and careers of its individual members, as well as the AAD, the whole of dermatology and, ultimately, the health of our patients and our nation.

It was a great honor to serve as president of the WDS.

Oh. Did I also mention that it was fun?

Sandra Read, M.D., Immediate Past President, Women's Dermatologic Society

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