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The Unpublished Response to a Practical Dermatology Article

You may remember our Call to Action to invite other SDPA members to write in to Practical Dermatology in response to their article.  We wanted to inform you that Practical Dermatology chose not to publish our response.  However, we still believe it is worth sharing with you.  The following is the response we’d hoped would be published:


            To Whom it May Concern,

In the November 2013 issue of Practical Dermatology Dr. Joel Schlessinger wrote an article primarily on physician recertification titled “Is It Worth It to Recertify?”  When discussing Physician Assistants (PAs) Dr. Schlessinger failed to mention that there IS a standardized program for PA specific dermatology competency beyond the “judgment of their supervising physician.”  The program is called the Distance Learning Initiative (DLI).  Completion of this program awards the PA Diplomate status within the Society of Dermatology Physician Assistants (SDPA).  To maintain this status the PAs must continue to complete additional modules, CME, dermatology-specific conference attendance, journal reading, and continued supervision by a board certified dermatologist.  The DLI program not only answers the need for a standardized dermatology content but it also provides evidence-based learning and testing required to pass each module. 

The DLI also incorporates many aspects of patient care including patient education, dermatopathology, emphasis on the team approach to healthcare that includes involvement of the supervising physician and appropriate referral to other medical specialties, and cost analysis of procedures, tests, and treatments.  Some feel the program is an ideal hybrid of proven competencies and may even be superior to the typical standard multiple choice question system of test taking at an expensive national testing center.  The typical standardized test that is used for most healthcare professionals (including PAs) for standardized test taking is expensive, time consuming, may contain questions and medical content that are often out of date, can unfairly punish those who are poor test takers or have test taking anxiety, and provide no real feedback or opportunity to learn from what questions were answered correctly or incorrectly. 

In summary, PAs who are Diplomates of the SDPA have completed dermatology specific competencies and have passed multiple tests to complete each module of the DLI.  Each dermatologist who employs PAs should encourage them to achieve this highest level of proven competency. 

Encouragement can start with showing them this article, as well as providing them time to complete the program and shoulder the minimal costs (the SDPA has provided hundreds of thousands of dollars to develop and sustain this program at cost for dermatology PAs and their supervising dermatologists).  Physicians considering the addition of a PA should highly consider Diplomates of the SDPA as superior employment candidates.  A list of current SDPA Diplomates can be found here

Sincerely, The SDPA Executive Board

Jennifer Winter, PA-C – President
Vicki Roberts, MPAS, PA-C – President Elect
Jacki Kment, MPAS, PA-C – Vice President
John Notabartolo, MPAS, PA-C – Immediate Past President


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