At the beginning of 2020, I joined the editorial team of Journal of Dermatology for Physician Assistants (JDPA) as a deputy editor, a position I accepted with great honor and enthusiasm. After all, the start of a new year is an ideal time to embark on new journeys and embrace change. As I settled into my new role with JDPA, we discussed our goals for the year ahead—to provide quality, peer-reviewed content for the derm PA readership and to highlight the unique experiences, achievements, and insights of providers and patients alike. In addition to the scientific research, we wanted to cover the human aspect of the derm PA profession; to share the personal stories of those making an impact on others and discuss observations being made in practices across the country. One unifying, albeit initially terrifying, experience in 2020 for all of us has been the COVID-19 pandemic, which has had far-reaching impacts within all realms of our clinical practice, professional associations, and personal lives. While time continues to pass and we learn more about this virus that has turned our lives upside down, we continue to see innovation rise from the necessity to adapt.
In response to COVID-19 we have seen virtually everything go, well, virtual. Healthcare providers swiftly enacted telemedicine, which gave patients the opportunity to be “seen” without having to physically come into the office. While this offering filled a practice gap in a time of great need, adapting to telemedicine, particularly teledermatology, has presented its own set of challenges. First, flipping the virtual switch likely illuminated technical difficulties for many of us; poor internet connections causing delays in video and audio, disruption in the flow of appointment schedules, and perhaps the most frustrating, limitations in providing care virtually in a specialty that is highly visual and hands on.
Dermatology, both in the clinical and aesthetic settings, is also procedurally based. With in-person visits and procedures only being performed in emergent derm cases, clinical practices were forced to put scheduled procedures on hold and predominately aesthetic based practices halted anything that was deemed non-essential (i.e., cosmetics). A slowing or complete stop to in-person practice meant decreased workload, which immediately translated to decreased hours and salary/compensation or furlough for many clinicians. During the height of the pandemic, all areas of healthcare seemed to be operating at bare-bone capacity, hoping to ride out an invisible storm with an unpredictable future.
These are just a few of the obstacles encountered by dermatology PAs during these unprecedented times.
While COVID-19 is still an enigma to most of us, some have encountered it head on and witnessed its devastation. Some of our very own derm PAs adapted to the disruption in their professional lives and answered the call to serve where they were most needed—on the front lines of the nation’s pandemic epicenters of New York, New York, and Seattle, Washington. In this issue, we share some of their stories.
I am certain I am not alone in feeling sheer annoyance in response to such rapid changes. Although frustration abounds change, this year has proven to be a time of growth and development. I appreciate all those who have stepped out of the box to continue to provide patient care, education, and services during this time. I look forward to the days when we can meet in-person for education and fellowship, with or without our masks and hand sanitizer! I don’t know how much “pandemic life” will follow us into 2021, but I do know that the grit and innovation we’ve shown this year will carry us into the uncertain future.
I hope you enjoy this latest issue.
Joleen M. Volz, DMSc, PA-C, DFAAPA
JDPA Deputy Editor