President of the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) Dr. George Hruza delivered a powerful and inspiring inaugural speech at the Plenary Session of the 2019 Annual AAD Meeting, three days prior to when his presidency began. Dr. Hruza has held many leadership positions in organizations such as the American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery (ASLMS) and the American Society of Dermatologic Surgery (ASDS). He comes with two decades of dermatology leadership positions to the presidency of the AAD. The AAD is the largest professional organization of dermatologists in the world.
Dr. Hruza spoke to the AAD audience about the “joy of dermatology” and his goals to “maintain, increase and .. recapture that joy.” He re-emphasized the importance of the physician-patient relationship. His speech was personal, and in the first of several vignettes he shared, he discussed the importance of physicians being the ones to make healthcare decisions for patients. He shared a personal story of how his uncle developed renal failure at the age of 51 years old, and who passed at the age of 52 as he was not able to obtain dialysis under the rules of the Czech Republic health care system at the time.
Dr. Hruza spoke about his goals to continue to “modernize the AAD,” comparing it to a “supertanker” currently in its monolithic state and “gathering steam once it gets going,” but “not easy to turn.” His goals are to shape the AAD to be like a “speedboat” in order to be more responsive and nimble. He also spoke about the AAD’s need to serve the field of dermatology and its patients in addition to serving the dermatologists.
Dr. Hruza also referenced his former laser fellowship director and mentor Dr. Rox Anderson. Dr. Anderson is widely regarded as the father of lasers in dermatology. Dr Anderson, who Dr. Hruza referred to as “the human Google,” taught him that “no problem is unsolvable,” but rather one just needs to “think creatively.”
In his speech Dr. Hruza called for the need to work at a state level on legislation and also discussed proper oversight of non-physician clinicians. He shared the story of a patient who had laser treatment at a med spa without medical supervision. The patient ended up with severe burns and large scars from misuse of the laser.
Dr. Hruza also directly addressed artificial intelligence (AI) in dermatology, referencing research showing that an AI algorithm could tell apart benign versus malignant lesions at least as well as dermatologists. His view is not to view AI as an enemy, but rather, to embrace the potential of AI to help dermatologists provide better care to patients. He stresses the importance of the role of the dermatologist in delivering care, stating, “most patients will want their care from a dermatologist, not a machine.”
Dr. Hruza also mentions further improvements to the practice management center as well as a new “quality innovation center” and initiatives to help dermatologists “recapture professional fulfillment.” Related to this last point, he points out that dermatologists are showing the “fastest rate of burnout in medicine” and states that “at times it seems we have lost the joy that brought us to this profession.” He strives to help dermatologists recapture the joy of being dermatologists and taking care of patients.
Dr. Hruza ended his speech by sharing a poignant vignette. Dr. Hruza’s mother survived the death march, concentration camp and typhus while his other relatives passed in Auschwitz. He had always admired his mother’s “determination to live.” He ended his speech with a story of when his mother was a 19-year old in the concentration camp. One day, the prisoners were called to exit the barracks for roll call. Everyone went out except the doctor who was also a prisoner and another prisoner who the doctor was operating on. The guard at the concentration camp told the doctor he needed to come out. When the doctor replied that he was in the middle of the surgery, the guard gave the doctor a choice - to go outside and live, or to finish the surgery and be shot. The doctor went back to complete the surgery, sacrificing himself. Dr. Hruza’s mother said, “I don’t know if I would be this courageous but I want what this doctor has.” She went on to become a doctor. Dr. Hruza states, “our profession is about putting our patients above ourselves”. He ends by encouraging the dermatologists to apply all their training and knowledge to help patients, saying, “We can only call that joy."
Dr. Hruza’s speech was well-received by the dermatologists, with many describing it as “inspired” and “inspirational.”