Academy President addresses disruption in dermatology

Dr. Olbricht: “Our differences and diversity can make us stronger.”

Academy President Suzanne Olbricht, MD, began Friday’s Plenary session with a sincere, transparent address to members. Dr. Olbricht framed her message around three keywords — disruption, relevance, and aspiration — to discuss the past, present, and future of both dermatology and the AAD.


In her first few months as president, Dr. Olbricht said she has had copious conversations with members and colleagues from around the world. Most of the stories she heard had a common theme: disruption.

The turbulence of health care and the economy, in general, has shaken up how dermatologists operate and practice. “We are in a perfect storm with many factors,” said Dr. Olbricht.


As dermatologists approach the challenges in front of them, said Dr. Olbricht, there are some they have consensus on and others, a difference of opinions. For instance, dermatologists can agree on the threats of rising prescription costs, increasing rates of physician burnout, and ongoing overall change.

“In our economy, and especially in the health care sector, technology and business model disruptors are evolving rapidly, even as we struggle to adapt. We need to have the courage to embrace change,” said Dr. Olbricht.

She went on to assert that even more worrisome are the divisive issues dermatologists face, such as:

  1. Dermatology or the dermatologist
    “What is good for the profession versus what is good for the individual dermatologist?” asked Dr. Olbricht. “We have wrestled with this question for years and the [AAD] Board recently discussed this question at our strategic retreat. The answer we choose informs whether we promote dermatologists above all, or we educate and train others to help us supply excellent care so that patients everywhere can benefit from our experience and judgment.”
  2. Access to care
    “One recent JAAD study indicated that patients with an active dermatologic issue experienced an average of 77 days wait time to see a dermatologist, regardless of insurance type. We clearly have an issue of access to patient care, and we do not all agree on the root cause,” said Dr. Olbricht. “Some of us do not even recognize that access to care is an issue at all, because it doesn’t affect our day-to-day practices.”
  3. Generation gap and feeling of disenfranchisement, especially among young physicians
    “We have done market research on our way to becoming an organization for the future. Our youngest members are overwhelmingly proud to be a part of the Academy, but we also hear that they often feel disconnected from our processes and our heavy focus on solo practice. Many are joining large group practices and going into academics and we need to have tools and programs for them to feel supported in their practice environments,” said Dr. Olbricht. “We need to focus on modernization, innovation, and transparency if we want to engage this next group of up-and-coming leaders in our field.”

Dr. Olbricht shared that Academy leadership has committed to several initiatives to help address such challenges. These are:

  • Strategic planning
  • Creation of new modern tools to improve patient care, such as the Find-A-Derm tool and Derm Coding Consult Pro app, and physician work-life balance, such as online AAD practice management resources
  • Consumer outreach on sunscreen ingredients
  • Efforts within the medical arena to bring awareness to current challenges and opportunities of specialties, such as private equity and consolidation


Dr. Olbricht concluded her address with an ambitious statement and a reminder to the audience about why they went into dermatology.

“We do need to continue to work on issues that we all agree on as well as those on which we differ in opinion. AAD is the gold standard for dermatology and, at the end of the day, our differences and our diversity can make us stronger.”

“This is about you and I walking into the office every day, taking the best care of patients that we can.”


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