The ABD Board of Directors Public Member Serves a Unique Role

By Bruce Bartels*

The American Board of Dermatology’s mission is:

To serve the public and distinguish the profession by certifying that diplomates have the knowledge and skills to provide high-quality, safe, and effective dermatologic care.

Since 1932, the ABD has existed to set standards for dermatologic care so all of us (the public) can be assured that our doctors are holding each other accountable for providing excellent, evidence-based treatment.

I am the “public member” of your ABD Board of Directors – the only one who is not a practicing dermatologist. I have been offering my perspective on the board since 2014. My term expires in 2023, and the ABD Board of Directors will choose another public member. As the search begins, I thought it would be informative to tell you why there’s a public representative on your Board, and why that role is important.

Chances are, not many members of the public know the difference between licensure and certification. They’ve never heard of medical specialty boards. But they absolutely expect that someone is seeing to it that a doctor who claims to know about a specialty really does have the appropriate expertise. That expectation is the underlying reason why the medical profession established the certification system nearly 90 years ago.

Of course, “the public” is not the ABD’s only concern. High standards guide the quality of residency and fellowship training, giving dermatology trainees a goal. The standards also serve as a marker for practicing dermatologists who want to know that they are keeping up with current best practices in their field.

But by having a public member on the Board of Directors, your leadership is demonstrating their commitment to having the perspective of patients/the public represented in every decision.

Realistically, it is impossible for any one person to represent “the public,” but the person in this role on the ABD Board looks at issues from a different perspective, and, I hope, offers insights into what issues really matter to your patients.

The ABD public board member is a non-physician with health-related experience or knowledge in areas relevant to the Board. He or she is a voting member on all issues except the election of new Board members.

In my case, I held leadership positions in hospitals and healthcare systems. I bring management, financial and organizational expertise to the Board that complements the medical knowledge and educational experience of the physician members.   

Maybe because I’m not a dermatologist, I don’t hesitate to ask “why” things are done the way they are. Sometimes, there’s a logical and important reason. Sometimes, no one remembers why, and we look for a better way.

Your leadership considers the public member a vital voice on the Board of Directors, so even though I’ve got about another year before I will rotate off, the Directors are already thinking about who will fill this role next.

If you know someone who would be a good candidate – or if you qualify -- please share this link with them and encourage them to apply. The application deadline is March 31. The Board of Directors will vote on final nominees at their June 2023 meeting.

*Bruce Bartels, MBA (public member, 2014-2023), from Jaffrey, NH, is the retired president and CEO of York, PA-based WellSpan Health. Earlier in his career, he had been the chief operating officer of the Medical Center Hospital of Vermont. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin and his MBA from the University of Chicago.

















































The ABD is seeking willing and qualified applicants for this important volunteer position.