An atlas that displays the unique nuances between different skin types across the spectrum of dermatologic disease is scheduled for release this coming winter.
Available as an e-book or physical text, Dermatologists need to know what skin diseases look like on all types of skin, said Adam Friedman, MD, who is developing this e-book with Misty Eleryan, MD, MS.
From the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, multiple nonviral pandemics have rapidly emerged, “most notably the persistent and well-masked racism that maintains disparities in all facets of life, from economics to health care,” Dr. Friedman, professor and interim chair of dermatology at George Washington University, Washington, said in an interview.
In dermatology, “clear disparities in workforce representation and trainee/practitioner education have become more apparent than ever before,” he added.
The project is a collaboration of George Washington University and education publishers Sanova Works and Educational Testing & Assessment Systems.
As a person of color who recently completed her residency in dermatology at George Washington University, Dr. Eleryan had noticed a lack of diversity in photos of common dermatoses. This can contribute to misdiagnoses and delays in treatment in patients of color, Dr. Eleryan, who is now a micrographic surgery and dermatologic oncology fellow at the University of California, Los Angeles, said in an interview.
“We recognized the gap, which is the lack of diversity/variation of skin tones in our dermatology textbooks and atlases,” she added.
The project was several years in the making, Dr. Friedman said. To do this right, “you need resources, funding, and a collaborative and galvanized team of experts.” That involved coordinating with several medical publishers and amassing a team of medical photographers and an expert panel that will assist in evaluating and securing difficult-to-access clinical images.
The atlas is one of several initiatives in the dermatology field to address racial disparities in patient care.
Noticing similar information gaps about clinical presentations in darker skin, a medical student in the United Kingdom, Malone Mukwende, created “Mind the Gap,” a handbook that presents side-by-side images of diseases and illnesses in light and dark skin. This project “highlights how far behind we are, that a medical student with minimal dermatology exposure and experience not only recognized the need but was ready to do something about it,” Dr. Friedman noted.
Others in the field have spotlighted disparities in the medical literature. The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has especially brought this out, Graeme M. Lipper, MD wrote in a recent editorial for this news organization.
He referred to a literature review of 46 articles describing COVID-19–associated skin manifestations, which included mostly (92%) images in patients with skin types I-III (92%) and none in patients with skin types V or VI.
“These investigators have identified a damning lack of images of COVID-19–associated skin manifestations in patients with darker skin,” added Dr. Lipper, an assistant clinical professor at the University of Vermont, Burlington, and a staff physician in the department of dermatology at Danbury (Conn.) Hospital.
For now, Dr. Friedman said that the atlas won’t contain a specific section on COVID-19 skin manifestations, although viral-associated skin reactions like morbilliform eruptions, urticaria, and retiform purpura will be displayed. Overall, the atlas will address 60-70 skin conditions.
Physicians who fail to educate themselves on the variations of skin conditions in all skin types may potentially harm patients of color, Dr. Eleryan said. As Dr. Lipper noted in his editorial, nearly half of all dermatologists feel they haven’t had adequate exposure to diseases in skin of color.
“Our atlas will fill that void and hopefully assist in closing the gap in health disparities among patients of color, who are often misdiagnosed or rendered diagnoses very late in the disease process,” Dr. Eleryan said.