By Abby S. Van Voorhees, MD, May 02, 2011It’s good to be on the right side of an issue now and again. Dermatology’s right side issue is tanning. It is truly to the credit to our small medical specialty that the risks associated with tanning are being understood at the national level. We’ve now been able to demonstrate conclusively that tanners have an increased risk of melanoma. We have been able to share our knowledge and protect the public in large part due to the tireless efforts of many of our colleagues working through both the Academy and the state dermatology societies. In the past year dermatologists’ concerns about tanning have even contributed to balancing the national budget — hence the new tax on tanning. So we have chosen as one of our feature stories this month the state of tanning regulation in 2011. The fact is that many young women are still wed to the notion of “a beautiful me equals a tan me.” This piece highlights all that has been accomplished, however, it also points out how much more there is to still be done. It reminds us that we need to do our best to help keep these young women out of the tanning salons. We’ve had some significant victories, but we must continue our public education campaign.
I’d also like to encourage you to read our piece on vitamin D. I don’t know about you, but this topic is an ever-elusive one to me — but boy do my patients ask about it. Who amongst us can’t stand a refresher so that we can all be brought up to date? As you’ll see, if you haven’t been following the issue closely, the recommended levels for Americans have just been adjusted upwards. While some within health care are utterly convinced that low levels are the cause of many of our chronic medical illnesses, the facts still seem a bit fuzzy to me. I think that you’ll find the thoughtfulness of some of our opinion leaders very helpful in sorting through this quagmire.
On a different topic, take a moment and also glance at the piece on helping patients who are in economic trouble. I have found that remembering to ask patients very specifically about the kind of prescription coverage they have has allowed me to learn more about the local Philadelphia economy. I have been struck by the large number of people of all ages and walks of life who are struggling as the rough economy lingers. We hear from both our fellow dermatologists and patient advocacy groups about possible ways to help those in that miserable spot obtain their needed medications. Being sure that you are aware of the various programs that patients can utilize such as the pharmaceutical companies’ assistance programs is of critical importance to your patients.
It’s certainly not enough to just talk about helping our patients. We must also be sure to have healthy practices. So be sure to review the column on CCI edits as well as the one on employee reviews. We may be used to thinking of May as melanoma screening month, but perhaps we need to add that it should be “Make time for the employee review month” too!
Hope that your spring is off to a good start leaving you energized to once again remind the public to avoid tanning and protect their skin. Hope that you’ve been enjoying our features and that you find them helpful. As always, feel free to write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions, suggestions, or concerns.
Enjoy your reading!
Abby S. VanVoorhees, MD