J Clin Aesthetic Dermatol 2021;14(6 Suppl 1):S15–S18
Amber Blair, MMC, PA-C, practices dermatology at Advanced Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery in Winter Park, Florida, alongside a fellowship-trained Mohs surgeon. After graduating from the University of Central Florida’s Cardiopulmonary Science Program, Ms. Blair earned her Masters in Medical Science of Physician Assistant Studies from Nova Southeastern University. While she has a special interest in skin cancer surgery, psoriasis, and acne, Ms. Blair also has a passion for the art of aesthetic enhancement, pre-juvenation, and rejuvenation. Her advanced training in these techniques has allowed her to hold a faculty position teaching cosmetic injectables at the Maui Derm NP+PA conferences. Additionally, her direct training under the medical director at the Winter Park Aesthetic Center allows her to incorporate cutting-edge laser technology into the comprehensive cosmetic treatment plans she offers her patients. Ms. Blair’s wide-ranging skillset and interests in surgery, aesthetic medicine, and general dermatology allow for a diverse and fulfilling clinical practice. Outside of her clinical practice, Ms. Amber serves on the Board of Directors and is Director at Large for the Society of Dermatology Physician Assistants (SDPA). Her love of teaching and continuing education has led her to serve as a preceptor and adjunctive faculty guest lecturer with Nova Southeastern University’s MMS Physician Assistant program, to serve as a preceptor for Advanced Dermatology’s PA fellowship-style training program, and to author several articles that have been published in peer-reviewed dermatology journals. Ms. Blair enjoys cooking, traveling, and spending time with her family, which just welcomed a new addition—a mini-bernedoodle, who is fun, playful and very mischievous! Ms. Blair follows a simplistic philosophy in life—Have passion for everything that you do; combine that with focus, drive, and hard work, and everything else will fall into place.
What led you to pursue a career as a physician assistant (PA)?
Amber: From very early in my life, I was certain I wanted to be in the medical field and dedicate my life to helping other people. Despite that certainty, for quite some time I was unsure as to which path was right for me. I decided to begin with an undergraduate degree in cardiopulmonary science. One of the last classes that I took as I was completing my curriculum was taught by a physician assistant. This was my first experience with the profession, and I instantly knew that this was what I ultimately wanted to do.
Upon graduation from college, I began my healthcare career as a respiratory therapist in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). It was at that time that I began cultivating a plan to go to graduate school; however, before making my next move, I wanted to gain additional clinical experience, as well as expand my family. Seven years later, just after my son turned three years old, I was accepted into Nova Southeastern University Master’s in Medical Science Physician Assistant program.
What prompted you to specialize in dermatology?
Amber: As I went through PA school, I was convinced that I would remain somewhere in the hospital system. During my years in the NICU, I began working on the extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) perfusioning team, and subsequently developed a keen interest in pediatric cardiothorasic surgery. My first clinical rotation in PA school landed me in an elective dermatology rotation, and, although I entered with no intent on dermatology being my profession, I was immediately hooked. I recall being amazed by the variety each day brought, and found myself more excited to learn than I had ever been before! I vowed to keep an open mind throughout the remainder of my clinical rotations, and I also found myself enjoying emergency medicine tremendously. By the end of the my clinical rotations, I was presented with two excellent job offers, one in emergency medicine and one in dermatology. After thoughtful consideration of both opportunities, I was certain that a career in dermatology was truly my calling, so I accepted the position as a dermatology PA.
What clinical areas in dermatology interest you the most?
Amber: What I love most about dermatology is the vast diversity that can be incorporated into one’s career. I spend a great deal of time curating an intricate balance of practicing clinical medicine, providing education, and serving in leadership roles, which has provided me an incredibly well-rounded and fulfilling career. As far as clinical practice, I truly enjoy the variety that each day brings. This said, I have developed a special passion for skin cancer and associated surgery, cosmetic rejuvenation, acne, and psoriasis. I feel that I can make a notable difference in each of these patient populations, and very much enjoy this niche.
What inspired your love of cosmetic dermatology?
Amber: Over the past several years, I have become enthralled with the art of beauty and the positive psychological impact that minimally invasive cosmetic procedures can have on an individual. I strive to master the techniques of every cosmetic service I offer my patients, so I continually seek to learn as much as I can in this area. I enjoy consulting cosmetic patients and educating them on the various options available to address their areas of concerns. I feel very blessed to have the opportunity to participate in the cosmetic journey of each patient, and I find these relationships to be incredibly fulfilling.
What would you say has the biggest impact among dermatology NPs and PAs on achieving optimal patient outcomes?
Amber: I feel that lifelong education, a team approach to patient care, and excellent communication between the healthcare provider and patient are the three factors that most attribute to optimizing patient outcomes. I believe that we all need to continue our quest for knowledge each day to optimize our clinical acumen. The more time we spend learning, the less likely we are to miss something critical. Coupling this with developing strong relationships with one’s colleagues and consulting with them frequently allows for a true team approach to providing the best patient care possible. Taking this one step further, it is imperative to be intentional in our communications with our patients to help them understand their conditions and treatment options, decide which treatment plan is best for them, and have realistic expectations of outcomes.
How do you encourage patients to become and remain engaged in their treatment plans?
Amber: It is imperative to get patient “buy-in” when devising their treatment plan. You have to engage your patients, educate them, and put together treatment plans that work with each individual patient’s lifestyle. I believe that the more our patients feel like they are a part of the planning process and the more we tailor a regimen that fits their individual needs, the more likely they are to adhere to their treatments. Additionally, I begin with more frequent follow-up appointments in order to maximize accountability and troubleshoot any concerns early on.
You are very involved in professional organizations. Tell us more.
Amber: I began my involvement in leadership as a derm PA years ago by volunteering for the FSDPA (Florida Society of Dermatology Physician Assistants). Soon thereafter, I was appointed to the role of Director at Large, and took over running central Florida’s journal club. I then became actively involved in SDPA, serving first as committee chair to the Publications and Communications committee and subsequently representing the society as host of Dermcast TV, the official media resource for the SDPA (https://dermcast.tv).I very much enjoyed my leadership roles and involvement in the SDPA, which led me to run for Director at Large, a position I still hold today.
Why is getting involved so important?
I believe it is crucial for PAs and NPs to get involved in their respective professional organizations to assist in the education of their colleagues, to become involved in political advancements of the profession, and to ensure that the organizations that work to improve the landscape of the PA and NP careers have the manpower and resources to do so.
What about authorship? Do you believe this is a critical component of an NP’s or PA’s professional career?
Amber: Authorship is one area for PAs and NPs that has historically had numerous challenges. These challenges range from identifying those who have an interest in writing and being published, providing resources to help them get started, and finding journals and peer-reviewed options that will accept their authorship. It is very important that we, as healthcare professionals, have this skill set because it helps solidify our knowledge and raise the bar, and it keeps the PA and NP professions relevant and competitive. Arguably most importantly, it exemplifies the overall knowledge and talent that we bring to the healthcare team. This is why NP+PA Perspectives in Dermatology is so important to our profession. It provides NPs and PAs the opportunity to be published in a peer-reviewed, indexed journal on their own merits, without an MD or DO as first author.
You believe it is important to give back to the field of dermatology and to your community. How do you accomplish this? What can NPs and PAs do to give back to their communities?
Amber: Get involved! Be a member of your state and national organizations. Find a cause that you are passionate about and set out to make a difference in that area. It doesn’t have to take a lot of time out of your schedule—every little bit helps. Consider your unique talents and how they may aid your professional organization(s). Fresh new thoughts and talent are always a great addition to an organization. The leadership skills that you will learn are beneficial to every aspect of your life!
You obviously lead a very busy life professionally and politically. How do you find balance and avoid burnout?
Amber: I surround myself with supportive people and activities that I love. This gives me balance. I surround myself with work that I love, so that none of it feels truly like work. I try to give back in every way that I can, which makes me feel good about the positive impact I hope to make. My goal is to leave both the world and this profession a little better than it was before me. The biggest limiting factor is too few hours in the day and days in the week!
What are you most proud of in your dermatology profession?
Amber: Aside from this spotlight article?! There are so many things that I am incredibly proud of in my career: the privilege to care for patients in need, to educate others within our field, and to assist pre-professional healthcare colleagues in discovering their true professional calling are all at the top of my list.
What words of advice would you offer new NPs and PAs entering the field of dermatology?
Amber: Read. Learn. Listen. Take the time to sit and look your patient in the eyes, even when you are running behind. Be kind. Be passionate about everything that you do, or don’t do it. Strive to be the best at every task and procedure you take on. Work hard. Don’t forget to take care of yourself too… it’s a marathon not a sprint. Never pretend to know more than you do. Always reach out and ask for assistance if you are not 200% certain of what you are doing… referring and consulting make you a stronger and wiser provider. Always take the time to educate others. And when you get up towards the top of your ladder, turn around and help the next one up too.