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Editorial
November 2018

Predictions, Surprises, and the Future of the Dermatology Workforce

Author Affiliations
  • 1Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 2CLEARS at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts
JAMA Dermatol. 2018;154(11):1253-1255. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2018.2925

With the debut of managed care in the 1980s, experts in the physician workforce portended an impending surplus of specialist physicians, including dermatologists. Despite these dire predictions, a dermatology workforce shortage was identified in the late 1990s, with an associated geographical imbalance.1 Since then, the overall shortage has only modestly abated, so it would not be surprising to find that an urban-rural workforce maldistribution has persisted. Indeed, in this issue of JAMA Dermatology, Feng and colleagues2 present physician data from 1995 to 2013 demonstrating that the maldistribution of dermatologists may well have worsened. They show an overall increase in density of dermatologists but a widening gap between metropolitan vs nonmetropolitan and rural communities. Additionally, the ratio of younger compared with older dermatologists (using a cutoff of age 55 years, the approximate mean physician age in the United States) increased in urban settings and simultaneously decreased in rural settings, a distribution that may cause this gap to grow.

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