NEW YORK – In a plenary session at the American Academy of Dermatology summer meeting, the AAD president offered an upbeat view of the profession, likening his role in leading the 19,000-member organization to that of a dancer and comparing the specialty itself to “a bright star on the dance floor.”
The specialty, however, is facing an uncertain future. “As the music changes, so must the dance,” Henry Lim, MD, told attendees. “And so it is with American medicine today. Successfully transitioning, adapting to those changes, is especially challenging for all of medicine, including for our specialty.”
Dr. Lim’s remarks came hours after President Donald Trump’s effort to dismantle the Affordable Care Act had failed. “We are in the middle of a health care system in deep turmoil and uncertainty – as you all saw from the vote this morning,” said Dr. Lim, whose 1-year term began in March.
Dermatology is assuming an ever-greater role as the U.S. population ages, he said. “The fastest-growing segment is people over 85 and last year Hallmark reported it sold 85,000 ‘Happy 100th Birthday’ cards.”
He cited the AAD’s Burden of Skin Disease Report, which found that nearly half of Americans over the age of 65 have at least one skin disease. That may not, however, translate into job security for dermatologists, he cautioned.
“A most concerning statistic from that report is that two in every three patients with skin disease are being treated by nondermatologists,” he said. Those practitioners include primary care physicians, pediatricians, hospitalists, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants. “We all know a major reason for it is access,” said Dr. Lim, who told a reporter prior to his speech that the academy has taken no position on whether it is for or against the Affordable Care Act.
But, he added in his speech, “we have been continuing to meet with individual members of Congress, Health and Human Services leadership, and the FDA – tackling issues eroding our ability to care for patients.”
Dr. Lim, chair emeritus of the department of dermatology and senior vice president for academic affairs at Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, cited in-office compounding, step therapy, narrow network funding for medical research, and scope of practice as examples.
“Listening is the key to understanding,” he noted, and the academy is doing just that. He and the rest of the academy’s leadership have visited with a number of state societies to listen to their concerns. “It is clear to me that, while we have handled many issues well, there are areas where we as an academy can do better,” he said.
Dr. Lim cited the need to “enhance our efforts in advocacy and to improve our communication, including our social media presence.”
The academy itself is in strong shape, with more than 90% of practicing dermatologists as members, he said. That places the AAD among the top specialty societies and means that future growth will likely come from international outreach.
Dr. Lim called on members to join the effort by taking to the dance floor themselves and participating. “Ask not what dermatology can do for you, ask what you can do for dermatology,” he concluded. “With the leadership of our academy listening to all of you and working together with all of you, I’m confident that dermatology will continue to be a bright star on the dance floor.”