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Introducing the Medical Dermatology Society

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Introducing the Medical Dermatology Society
Richard D. Sontheimer M.D., Victoria Werth, M.D., Thomas T. Provost, M.D.
Dermatology Online Journal: Volume 2 Number 1 :8

The Medical Dermatology Society (MDS) was established in 1994 to foster interest and cooperative, patient-centered research in adult medical dermatology. In this context, the term "medical dermatology" is used to refer to cutaneous changes that are associated with systemic disease processes and to potentially disabling or fatal skin diseases that are treated primarily with systemic drug therapy. Specific diseases of interest include but are not limited to: autoimmune bullous disorders (pemphigus, pemphigoid), cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, severe drug hypersensitivity reactions (Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, toxic erythema necrolysis, the sulfone hypersensitivity syndrome), neutrophilic dermatoses, rheumatic skin disease (lupus erythematosus, dermatomyositis, scleroderma and vasculitis).
Priorities of the Medical Dermatology Society
  • Foster interest and continuing education in medical dermatology among dermatologists and dermatology resident trainees
  • Serve as a coordinating body for the development of multicenter cooperative studies in medical dermatology that take advantage of the tools of modern electronic communication
  • Serve as a voice of advocacy for the patient affected with orphan medical dermatology diseases in the rapidly changing arena of health care economics
  • Provide a forum for ongoing interchange among dermatologists concerning medical and socioeconomic issues pertaining to the practice of in-patient and out-patient medical dermatology and hospital-based consultative dermatology.

The MDS was formed in response to the perception that the steadily increasing emphasis on surgery and cosmetics within our specialty during the past decade may distract the field from a traditional cornerstone, namely, the expert care of medically related skin disease. It was the hope of the organizing committee (Victoria Werth, Thomas Provost, and Richard Sontheimer) that the formation of the MDS could re-focus interest in this area. Our goal is to promote the medical interests of our membership, similar to the approach that has been taken by other, successful Dermatology subspecialty groups, such as the Society of Pediatric Dermatology, Photomedicine Society, and American Contact Dermatitis Society.

We intend that the MDS will complement the efforts of traditional, more broadly-based dermatologic organizations, such as the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) and the Society of Investigative Dermatology (SID). Our focus, however, is different. The national meeting of the AAD has provided venues for medical aspects of dermatology, but there are logistic difficulties caused by the busy program, which includes concurrent sessions. The annual national meeting of the SID provides a stimulating forum for cutting-edge research presentations, but the emphasis has traditionally been on basic investigation, although increasing emphasis has been placed on clinical research at recent meetings. In addition, neither the SID nor the AAD currently has a primary mission of promoting multicenter cooperative studies of orphan medical dermatology diseases, a major goal of our new Society.

The MDS will also seek to help medically oriented dermatologists as financial constraints tighten. Third-party payers have traditionally reimbursed medical services at a lower hourly rate than for surgical services. Managed health care, including capitation, has made the long-term management of patients with complex, multi-system dermatologic diseases increasingly difficult. We hope to play a supportive, knowledgeable role as advocates for practitioners and patients. Moreover, our emphasis on clinical trials could improve therapies and strengthen the justifications for specific approaches to treatment.

The MDS was initially organized at an informal meeting held in conjunction with the SID national meeting in Baltimore, MD in April, 1994. Mini-symposia on pemphigus and vasculitis were presented at the first two MDS national meetings held on February 3, 1995 and February 9, 1996 respectively. A multicenter, double-blinded, controlled clinical trial of the steroid-sparing effects of Dapsone in pemphigus was organized by Dr. Victoria Werth at the 1996 meeting. In addition, a Thieves' Market of intriguing unknown cases relating to challenging medical dermatologic disease was introduced at the 1996 meeting with an enthusiastic response. The next meeting of the MDS, to be held in San Francisco on March 20, 1997, will focus on issues related to the practice of in-patient dermatology. Further structure for this organization will be provided at that time by reports from the Bylaws and Nominations Committees. Inquiries concerning membership in the MDS and registration for the next national meeting should be directed to Richard D. Sontheimer, M.D..


Membership in the Medical Dermatology Society is open to all academic dermatologists, office-based practicing dermatologists, dermatology residents, and dermatology fellows who have a focus of interest in medical dermatology. The only criterion for joining MEDDERM is that members must be dermatologists or dermatology trainees who have an interest in the area of medical dermatology as has been defined in the MDS mission statement. Those interested in joining MEDDERM should send an E-Mail message to Rick Sontheimer at: Please identify yourself by including a brief description of your relationship to the practice of medical dermatology. If you name does not appear in the current American Academy of Dermatology membership directory, please include the name, phone number, fax number, and E-Mail address if available of a current AAD member who can vouch for your identity as a dermatologist or dermatology trainee.

This is an exciting but difficult time for dermatology. Our patients deserve to have the benefits of four decades of basic biomedical research aggressively brought to the clinic. Nevertheless, financial and administrative restrictions on medicine threaten to slow or stop this effort. We seek to counterbalance these constraints, through advocacy, education, and cooperative clinical studies with a focus on the systemically ill dermatologic patient.