Young Diplomate Observer Represents Early-Career Dermatologists on ABD Board of Directors

By Jason R. Castillo*

If you are just starting your career as a certified dermatologist or dermatology subspecialist, you should know that your voice is represented on the American Board of Dermatology’s Board of Directors.

Three years ago, the ABD established a new position – Young Diplomate Observer. I was honored to be selected as the first to fill this role. My three-year term expires June 30, and the ABD currently is seeking a successor in this position. I enthusiastically encourage anyone who has been certified for four years or fewer to consider applying here by March 15, 2024.

Jason Castillo, MD

As the Young Diplomate Observer, I do not have a vote, but I have a voice. Most of the Directors are well-established in their careers. I represent those who are just getting started, and who may be affected most by the ABD’s strategic direction.

To be honest, I was a little intimidated at first. I had a seat at the table with luminaries in our specialty – the ones who write the books (literally) and whose research breaks new ground. But from our first meeting, I felt accepted as a colleague and that my opinions and perspectives were valued.

The ABD Board of Directors includes general dermatologists and subspecialists. Some are leaders at top academic institutions. Some are in private practice. All have experience writing exam items, in support of the ABD’s mission, “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.”

I was a full participant in 2021 when the Board reviewed and updated our mission and vision statements. I served on a committee that helped develop the strategic plan that is guiding the ABD’s future direction.

The idea of having an early-career representative on the Board of Directors came from a newly certified dermatologist. He voiced concerns that younger dermatologists just starting their careers were not represented on the Board even though new programs and policies would have significant impact on them.

The Board listened, and the position of Young Diplomate Observer was created. The term is three years – long enough to participate in meaningful ways, but short enough to provide an opportunity for others to share their opinions and perspectives.

When I became certified, I remember how excited I was to receive the email during fellowship. It was the culmination of my medical education.  But to be honest, I didn’t fully understand what the Board did. When I heard the ABD was asking for nominees, my curiosity was piqued.

Over the past three years, I learned so much about the role of certification in setting and maintaining standards for our specialty and subspecialties. I received a “crash course” in writing exam questions– not just for the APPLIED Exam, but for all ABD exams and CertLink. I have a better understanding of how the Board’s work goes beyond exams and includes professionalism, innovation, and lifelong learning.

I believe I’ve had an impact on the Board and that my Board experience has had an impact upon me. I gained confidence as a professional, becoming more comfortable speaking up in board meetings. I learned that my perspectives and experiences are valued by colleagues, even those who are further along in their careers.

The time required is not onerous. We meet four times a year – three of those are via Zoom. The June meeting is held for three days in Chicago. There are opportunities to be involved in the work of committees, depending on your interests, expertise, and availability.  

The Board is asking for self-nominations. If you know of someone who would be a good representative, please send them this link. The new term begins July 1, and there will be orientation opportunities and materials available before the September Board meeting.


*Dr. Castillo is certified in general dermatology (2017) and Micrographic Dermatologic Surgery (2021) and participates in continuing certification. He works in the Mohs Department of Kaiser Permanente’s Barranca Medical Office in Irvine, CA, and is Director of Dermatologic Surgery Education at Harbor-UCLA Medical Dermatology Residency. He is an Assistant Clinical Professor at the Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine.