Educating Dermatology Physician Extenders: The SCOPE Course Completes its Seventh Consecutive Year

James Q. Del Rosso, DO;
Roger I. Ceilley, MD

The SCOPE Course, which stands for Skin Curriculum Overview for Physician Extenders, was discovered and developed by James Q. Del Rosso, DO, and Roger I. Ceilley, MD, in 2003 (Figure 1 ). The motivation to form this dedicated core curriculum for Physician Assistants (PA) and Nurse Practitioners (NP) employed by dermatologists was the fact that, although the number of physician extenders hired by dermatology practices is high and continues to increase, the majority of these practitioners receive no formal training in dermatology. This year, the 7th Annual SCOPE Course was held from March 26–28, 2010, in Southlake, Texas.

What are the overall objectives of The SCOPE Course?
The initial objectives of The SCOPE Course have remained the driving force of this educational program. The primary goal of this course is to provide a comprehensive medical and surgical core curriculum in dermatology coupled with a highly interactive educational environment between faculty and attendees. Comprising presentations inclusive of major dermatology subject areas, case-study presentations, and multiple question-and-answer sessions, The SCOPE Course has had 160 to 237 attendees each year, representing up to 34 states in any given year. The popularity and success of the course is evidenced by the fact that approximately 37 percent of attendees each year are repeat attendees.

Dr. Roger Ceilley, one of the Co-Founders and Co-Directors of the course, emphasizes the following, “Everything needs to start somewhere. The SCOPE Course provides a starting point where PAs and NPs employed by dermatologists can obtain a focused exposure to much of the core background information needed to practice dermatology. From there, the supervising dermatologist and the PA or NP can build upon this core curriculum through further education within their practices.” Dr. James Del Rosso, the other Co-Founder and Co-Director adds, “Each year, at the start of the course, we ask how many of the PAs and NPs were provided with regular educational programs in dermatology  which were associated with their employment. Every year, less than five percent say they have received such educational programs. This has assured Dr. Ceilley and myself that The SCOPE Course addresses an unmet need in educating our physician extenders in dermatology.”

From a philosophical perspective, The SCOPE course emphasizes the importance of quality patient care, focusing on making the correct diagnosis and monitoring patients over time in order to ensure a positive outcome and detect early any adverse effects. The Course Directors also spend a lot of time emphasizing proper technique for biopsy depending on the clinical situation, along with clinical and pathologic correlation. Essentially, The SCOPE Course serves to teach fundamental core information related to several dermatology topics coupled with the art of practicing dermatology in a manner that optimizes patient management.

Most recently, Terry Arnold, PA-C, has joined Drs. Ceilley and Del Rosso as a Co-Director of The SCOPE Course (Figure 2 ). Mr. Arnold has years of experience in organizing educational programs for physician extenders and serves as a great resource to evaluate needs assessments and educational grant opportunities.

Who teaches at The SCOPE Course?
In addition to the Course Directors, the faculty includes some of the most talented and well-recognized dermatologists in the United States, all of whom are active in both clinical practice and teaching. Those individuals who frequently participate as faculty include David Cohen, MD (contact dermatitis, eczematous dermatoses); Darrell Rigel, MD (melanoma, pigmented lesions); Mark Lebwohl, MD, Bruce Strober, MD, and J. Mark Jackson, MD (papulosquamous diseases); Jason Smith, MD (benign skin neoplasms, photodermatoses); Fred Ghalli, MD (pediatric dermatology); Mike Bryan, MD (skin signs of systemic disease); Clay Cockerell, MD, and Antoanella Calame, MD (dermatopathology); and Howard Steinman, MD (cosmetic dermatology). The speakers present to a large group of PAs and NPs employed by dermatologists from across the United States (Figure 3 ).

Who supports The SCOPE Course?
The SCOPE Course is a continuing medical education (CME)-approved program that is supported by unrestricted educational grants. From 2004 through 2009, Galderma was the sole grantor supporting the course. Beginning in 2010, support for the program has expanded to allow for receipt of educational grants from multiple supporters. Other educational grant supporters of The SCOPE Course in 2010, in addition to Galderma, were Intendis, Medicis, Coria/Valeant, and Graceway. Each year, the content of The SCOPE Course is determined and developed only by the Course Directors in coordination with faculty and is approved for CME credit after review by an accredited CME organization. In 2010, The SCOPE Course was approved for 20 hours of AAPA Category I CME credits by the Physician Assistant Review Panel.

What is on the horizon for The SCOPE Course?
The Co-Directors of The SCOPE Course plan to continue this important annual meeting and hope to reach a greater number of dermatology physician extenders, both PAs and NPs. At present, there are well over 2,000 PAs employed by dermatologists across the United States, inclusive of more than one-third of dermatology practices. Although the number of NPs employed by dermatologists in the United States is less than PAs, the number of NPs employed by dermatologists is growing progressively. It is important that academic leaders in dermatology organize educational initiatives to enhance education for physician extenders employed in dermatology practices. The incorporation of PAs and NPs into the delivery of dermatological care is an integral component of the practice of many dermatologists and is now mainstream across the United States. As such, it is important that educational initiatives, such as The SCOPE Course, reach as many physician extenders as possible.