AAD President Suzanne Olbricht, MD, encourages a future for all

Serving as AAD President marks a year of achievements and pride for Suzanne Olbricht, MD, but it takes a back seat to her real passion — everyday patient care. On Sunday, Dr. Olbricht delivered the annual presidential address at American Academy of Dermatology 2019.

Suzanne Olbricht, MD

“One year ago, I began my presidency by saying that I took confidence not only from all of you, but also from something we all share — that despite the pressures and challenges that come with our jobs, what we want above all else is towalk into work every day and do the best job we can taking care of patients,” Dr. Olbricht said.

A vision for dermatology

Dr. Olbricht underscored the importance of “vision” when moving forward, whether as a nation — as in the case of the 1969 moon landing — or as the preeminent voice of dermatology.

“What made the moon landing possible went beyond engineering genius and human courage. It took a vision of what could be and a strategy to make it happen,” Dr. Olbricht said. “Our vision for our Academy may not be as momentous as the one outlined by President Kennedy for the moon landing. But I came to this role believing that to realize our vision — to be recognized as the leading authority for the highest quality and compassionate dermatologic care — we need to look squarely at our external environment and make sure we’re equipped to deal with the powerful disruptions pummeling our profession.”

This is a challenge that is “wholly disruptive and transformative,” she said, not one that is traditional for the medical field, “which has behaved like a guild.”  The challenge forces the dermatology specialty to address more traditional issues, such as business models that include private equity and consolidation, the burden of skin disease, access to dermatology, and, of course, physician burnout.

As president, Dr. Olbricht’s shared goal with AAD was to develop a strategic plan that would benefit patients, members, and the AAD as a whole.

For patients, it means AAD is improving global access, innovation, and quality of dermatologist-led patient care, while providing visionary leadership for the profession. Through its programs and resources, AAD members are advancing the frontiers of dermatologic care by embracing innovation and technological advances, overcoming accessibility barriers, optimizing data-driven improvements in care, and expanding outreach to the global community.

Looking ahead

Moving forward, she sees other areas for improvement, including what Dr. Olbricht calls “dermatology versus the dermatologist,” or “what is good for the profession versus what is good for the individual dermatologist?”

“The Board discussed this question at our strategic retreat. After a lengthy debate, we came down to this: A dermatologist out of synch with what is happening in the external world will not long survive,” she said. “We will embrace the changes happening in the way people access our health care system today and promote the practice of dermatology in the right setting, to the right patients, delivered in the appropriate methodology.

During her address, Dr. Olbricht shared other concerns affecting the Academy and the specialty, including access to care, engaging younger physicians, modernization, innovation, and transparency.

Your vote matters

“We made great strides in this arena this year and have more to come as task forces complete their work. An early win: I want to point to our 2019 Election Connection activities, reaching out to you and facilitating your engagement with the candidates,” she said. “This is town hall local politics in action. What is needed is your participation. Please check out www.aad.org/electionconnection and be prepared to think and to vote and plan for the future.”

Embracing the future

But perhaps the biggest challenge to the specialty and the AAD is not embracing change. Embracing the future is what Dr. Olbricht has focused on this past year and where she encourages others to focus, as well.

“We do not want to be known as the profession that went the way of the checkbook or Yellow Taxi Cabs in the face of Venmo and Uber,” Dr. Olbricht said. “Let’s keep the AAD the powerhouse it has always been — on top of the changes in medicine, equipped and well-prepared for anything the future throws at us, recognized as the leading authority for the highest quality and compassionate dermatologic care.”

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