Renata Block, PA-C: Biggest Takeaways from the Summer Dermatology Conference

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In this Q&A interview with physician assistant Renata Block, Block spoke on some of her thoughts about the recent SDPA conference and its presentations.

In this HCPLive Q&A interview, physician assistant Renata Block, MMS, PA-C, discussed some of her biggest takeaways from the Society of Dermatology Physician Assistants (SDPA) 2023 Annual Summer Dermatology Conference in Boston.

Block, in addition to being a dermatology physician assistant, has also been a member of SDPA’s board of directors for 6 years. Consequently, her thoughts on the conference and its contents provided valuable insight.

HCPLive: Can you tell our clinician audience a bit about your background?

Block: I've been a dermatology physician assistant for almost 20 years and I love what I do. I also do a lot of community outreach, educating the public at large in regards to disease states as I think education is such a powerful tool for patients when they come into the office.

HCPLive: Can you speak on some of the biggest strides that you have observed in the dermatology field in recent years? Specifically in your own practice, what are some of the conditions you have seen improve with regard to overall treatment outcomes?

Block: So, interestingly enough, we have a very diverse population that comes to the practice, I am located in the South Loop of Chicago. And we really have a diverse population in regards to skin of color, ethnicity, and a lot of these patients are coming into the clinic for the first time to be diagnosed. And I've been doing this for about 20 years, and I've never experienced this in my career, and I think it is a blessing to have these new patients.

Because I feel like the impact that I'm making to these patients in regards to their diagnosis, treating the patient as a whole, but also learning more myself in regards to how these diseases present themselves in different Fitzpatrick types. And I think it is so important and things that we were lacking, in regards to having color photos, in regards to skin of color. So it's really a challenging and a very satisfying place to be in regards to dermatological care.

HCPLive: The use of convolutional neural networks for skin imaging has shown some promising data, recently. Do new developments like these contribute to your optimism with regard to better detection of skin cancer in different subgroups?

Block: You bet…A lot of these patients are out in the sun, but some think they're immune to getting skin cancer. So I am a very big proponent of getting a skin exam. I'll tell you, a lot of times I am the first provider that they have a skin exam with, and It shocks me because they're kind of resistant to it. Because you don't know what you don't know.

But spending that extra time with that patient and educating them and giving the statistics out there of the impact that skin cancer can have on different Fitzpatrick types, then it really hits home with them, and they understand.

HCPLive: What were your general thoughts on the SDPA conference which just concluded this past weekend?

Block: So I am on the board of directors for the SDPA and I have been for 6 years, andI'm actually exiting, so it was my last conference. It was a little bittersweet. And I love SDPA, because I feel like we are the first organization to really have conferences aimed at APPs that are curated by dermatology PAs.

So I think that has come full circle; now other conferences are following our lead in that, because as dermatology PAs we know what dermatology PAs want, and we know what they need, and we know what we can provide them and the conferences are just an amazing opportunity to not only get stellar education by renowned speakers across the country, but also networking with your colleagues with your peers. It's just a win win for everyone.

HCPLive: Were there any particular sessions you were able to attend and that you enjoyed?

Block: You know, there are a lot of great sessions, and I wish I could sit through every single one of them. But the beautiful thing with SDPA is that we record all of them. So when the recordings come up, and I was in meetings and unable to attend them, then I'll be able to watch them later, which is a beautiful thing. One that I saw was the ‘Up and Coming Treatment Options for HS Patients.’ And we're doing a lot of off-label, that we need to be informed about. Because we really don't have standard guidelines on what works best. We're still working on this validation of treating these patients, whether it's surgically or by prescription, what have you.

But I really enjoyed that talk. And I really enjoyed the postinflammatory pigmentation discussion just because, again, I'm working with a diverse population in my practice, and we're talking hyper or hypopigmentation or post-inflammatory erythema, that can last months. And really the impact on the patient's on their self esteem, the quality of life, the astigmatism, that can lead to depression.

HCPLive: Given that some of the more diverse populations were not receiving the right level of attention, do you feel the field is going in the right direction?

Block: I think within the past year, it has accelerated a lot. And I think it's now moving forward with a force because it's way way overdo. Like I said, I've been doing this for 20 years. And it's like, ‘now you're doing it?’ You know? So skin of color is so important because, like I said, the disease presents itself differently, and things can be easily missed and misdiagnosed.

But it's not only with the dermatology healthcare team, it's our colleagues, our family practice, our emergency rooms, our urgent cares. As dermatology providers, it is our duty to really educate and to send these patients to a dermatology clinic so they can get early intervention and treatment, because it can make an enormous difference into disease states and also their self esteem.

The quotes contained in this discussion were edited for the purposes of clarity.