Active state societies critical to dermatology's future

From the President

Dirk Elston

Dr. Elston served as the Academy's president from March 5, 2013 until March 25, 2014.

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All politics is local.

As a national organization, we often focus on federal issues, but much of what will affect our patients and our practices in the coming years will be decided in state legislatures.

The Academy knows this, and optimizing strategy with our state societies is a major focus of my presidency. Last month, I established an ad hoc task force under the leadership of Dr. Mary Maloney to look at best practices that will allow for optimal communication, coordination, and collaboration between the AAD and our state societies as well as ways to enhance interaction and coordination of efforts between the societies. Our state society relations office is expanding as we recognize the critical importance of strong state societies to the future of our specialty and the challenges our state societies face because of limited staff resources.

Every dermatologist should know that your local battles are our battles. Your concerns are our concerns, and issues that surface in one state rarely remain regional issues. Our specialty is facing unprecedented pressures on reimbursement and scope of practice. To quote Benjamin Franklin, “We must all hang together or we will certainly hang separately.”

Our efforts are vital to the success of state laws and regional payer policies that affect our patients, including attempts to restrict office-based surgery, efforts to tax procedures, and local policies on medical necessity. Fundamental questions of truth in advertising and transparency to patients, so they know the level of training of the person delivering their care, are decided at the state level, as are fundamental public health issues like restrictions on indoor tanning for those under 18. But we cannot succeed on these issues without strong partners on the ground in the form of vigorous and active state dermatologic societies.

While the Academy has always worked to promote healthy state societies, in the past year we have recognized the success of our state societies as one of the five top priorities vital to the future of dermatology. (For a discussion of all five vital priorities, see www.aad.org/dw/monthly/2013/march/the-way-forward.) The establishment of the ad hoc task force and the strengthening of our state liaison office are important steps to ensure that all issues that face our specialty are addressed in an efficient and effective manner. Thank you to the State Policy Committee, chaired by Bruce Brod, MD, and the State Society Development Task Force, chaired by Scott Collins, MD, for their ongoing work to help state societies achieve continued success. [pagebreak]

Outlined below are just some of the opportunities for those interested in strengthening their state societies. We offer a dedicated leadership workshop and networking reception during the Annual Meeting, a conference for state society executives, and a breakfast for physician leaders to share ideas. This year, we initiated an electronic newsletter, Society Insider, to help leaders in different states connect with one another and help them stay abreast of one another’s efforts, challenges and successes. The quarterly publication is sent to our state society leaders, including officers, executive directors, and staff, to provide them with information and resources on policy, education, organization and leadership, and communication, but is also available to any Academy member who wants to become more involved.

For state societies that request them, we assist with planning meetings and leadership retreats. Academy staff and members of the State Society Development Task Force are available to work with state leaders to review a society’s challenges, strengths, and goals and identify opportunities to partner with the Academy. We can also help state societies review and refine their bylaws and work with them to conduct surveys to help them rank their advocacy priorities, allocate resources accordingly, improve their communications, and increase member engagement.

The Academy offers a variety of additional resources to help state societies achieve success. Our staff can help review proposed legislation, regulations, and payer policies. We can help prepare dermatologists to testify at legislative hearings and provide expert testimony from national leaders. We can offer support in activating grassroots networks to contact legislators at key moments during a bill’s consideration. And we can help plan in advance to make sure that when legislation or a regulation is proposed, a state society is ready to respond — or, even better, help get favorable legislation or regulations drafted and introduced based on models we have crafted. State societies that are working to advance positive legislation or facing down a bad bill can also apply for an AADA State Advocacy Grant to ensure that they have the financial resources to address the issue, or apply for a Model State Award to recognize their ongoing efforts.

We have much to learn from the best practices of state dermatology societies that are succeeding across the country, and, as detailed above, much to offer. Our combined efforts are vital to ensuring that dermatology is successful on a state-by-state and national basis. Visit www.aad.org/members/aada-advocacy/state-affairs to learn more about what’s happening in your state. If you’re not already a member of your state society, be sure to click on “Contact a state society” to find yours and find out how to join. And if you’ve already joined, take the next step and find out how you can get more involved.