Commentary

Increasing Skin of Color Publications in the Dermatology Literature: A Call to Action

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Practice Points

  • Submitting more articles related to skin of color for peer review and publication will increase educational opportunities.
  • Journals that publish skin of color articles play a critical role in reducing educational gaps and ultimately help improve patient care for those with skin of color.


 

References

The US population is becoming more diverse. By 2044, it is predicted that there will be a majority minority population in the United States.1 Therefore, it is imperative to continue to develop educational mechanisms for all dermatologists to increase and maintain competency in skin of color dermatology, which will contribute to the achievement of health equity for patients with all skin tones and hair types.

Not only is clinical skin of color education necessary, but diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) education for dermatologists also is critical. Clinical examination,2 diagnosis, and treatment of skin and hair disorders across the skin of color spectrum with cultural humility is essential to achieve health equity. If trainees, dermatologists, other specialists, and primary care clinicians are not frequently exposed to patients with darker skin tones and coily hair, the nuances in diagnosing and treating these patients must be learned in alternate ways.

To ready the nation’s physicians and clinicians to care for the growing diverse population, exposure to more images of dermatologic diseases in those with darker skin tones in journal articles, textbooks, conference lectures, and online dermatology image libraries is necessary to help close the skin of color training and practice gap.3,4 The following initiatives demonstrate how Cutis has sought to address these educational gaps and remains committed to improving DEI education in dermatology.

Collaboration With the Skin of Color Society

The Skin of Color Society (SOCS), which was founded in 2004 by Dr. Susan C. Taylor, is a dermatologic organization with more than 800 members representing 32 countries. Its mission includes promoting awareness and excellence within skin of color dermatology through research, education, and mentorship. The SOCS has utilized strategic partnerships with national and international dermatologists, as well as professional medical organizations and community, industry, and corporate groups, to ultimately ensure that patients with skin of color receive the expert care they deserve.5 In 2017, Cutis published the inaugural article in its collaboration with the SOCS,6 and more articles, which undergo regular peer review, continue to be published quarterly (https://www.mdedge.com/dermatology/skin-color).

Increase Number of Journal Articles on Skin of Color Topics

Increasing the number of journal articles on skin of color–related topics needs to be intentional, as it is a tool that has been identified as a necessary part of enhancing awareness and subsequently improving patient care. Wilson et al7 used stringent criteria to review all articles published from January 2018 to October 2020 in 52 dermatology journals for inclusion of topics on skin of color, hair in patients with skin of color, diversity and inclusion, and socioeconomic and health care disparities in the skin of color population. The journals they reviewed included publications based on continents with majority skin of color populations, such as Asia, as well as those with minority skin of color populations, such as Europe. During the study period, the percentage of articles covering skin of color ranged from 2.04% to 61.8%, with an average of 16.8%.7

The total number of Cutis articles published during the study period was 709, with 132 (18.62%) meeting the investigators’ criteria for articles on skin of color; these included case reports in which at least 1 patient with skin of color was featured.7 Overall, Cutis ranked 16th of the 52 journals for inclusion of skin of color content. Cutis was one of only a few journals based in North America, a non–skin-of-color–predominant continent, to make the top 16 in this study.7

Some of the 132 skin of color articles published in Cutis were the result of the journal’s collaboration with the SOCS. Through this collaboration, articles were published on a variety of skin of color topics, including DEI (6), alopecia and hair care (5), dermoscopy/optical coherence tomography imaging (1), atopic dermatitis (1), cosmetics (1), hidradenitis suppurativa (1), pigmentation (1), rosacea (1), and skin cancer (2). These articles also resulted in a number of podcast discussions (https://www.mdedge.com/podcasts/dermatology-weekly), including one on dealing with DEI, one on pigmentation, and one on dermoscopy/optical coherence tomography imaging. The latter featured the SOCS Scientific Symposium poster winners in 2020.

The number of articles published specifically through Cutis’s collaboration with the SOCS accounted for only a small part of the journal’s 132 skin of color articles identified in the study by Wilson et al.7 We speculate that Cutis’s display of intentional commitment to supporting the inclusion of skin of color articles in the journal may in turn encourage its broader readership to submit more skin of color–focused articles for peer review.

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