Skin of Color

Skin of Color in Preclinical Medical Education: A Cross-Institutional Comparison and A Call to Action

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Across all 3 institutions included in the study, the proportion of the total number of clinical photographs showing skin of color was 16% (290/1812). Eight percent of the total photographs (145/1812) were noted to be indeterminate (Table). For institution 1, 23.6% of photographs (155/658) showed skin of color, and 12.6% (83/658) were indeterminate. For institution 2, 13.1% (76/578) showed skin of color and 7.8% (45/578) were indeterminate. For institution 3, 10.2% (59/576) showed skin of color and 3% (17/576) were indeterminate.

Institutions 1, 2, and 3 had 18, 8, and 17 total dermatology lectures, respectively. Of the 19 conditions designated as areas of importance to skin of color patients by the SOCS, 16 (84.2%) were discussed by institution 1, 11 (57.9%) by institution 2, and 9 (47.4%) by institution 3 (eTable 1). Institution 3 did not include photographs of skin of color patients in its acne, psoriasis, or cutaneous malignancy lectures. Institution 1 also did not include any skin of color patients in its malignancy lecture. Lectures that focused on pigmentary disorders, atopic dermatitis, infectious conditions, and benign cutaneous neoplasms were more likely to display photographs of skin of color patients; for example, lectures that discussed infectious conditions, such as superficial mycoses, herpes viruses, human papillomavirus, syphilis, and atypical mycobacterial infections, were consistently among those with higher proportions of photographs of skin of color patients.

Throughout the entire preclinical dermatology course at all 3 institutions, of 2945 lecture slides, only 24 (0.8%) unique differences were noted between skin color and non–skin of color patients, with 10 total differences noted by institution 1, 6 by institution 2, and 8 by institution 3 (Table). The majority of these differences (19/24) were related to epidemiologic differences in prevalence among varying racial/ethnic groups, with only 5 instances highlighting differences in clinical presentation. There was only a single instance that elaborated on the underlying pathophysiologic mechanisms of the discussed difference. Of all 24 unique differences discussed, 8 were related to skin cancer, 3 were related to dermatitis, and 2 were related to the difference in manifestation of erythema in patients with darker skin (eTable 2).


The results of this study demonstrated that skin of color is underrepresented in the preclinical dermatology curriculum at these 3 institutions. Although only 16% of all included clinical photographs were of skin of color, individuals with skin of color will soon represent more than half of the total US population within the next 2 decades.1 To increase representation of skin of color patients, teaching faculty should consciously and deliberately include more photographs of skin of color patients for a wider variety of common conditions, including atopic dermatitis and psoriasis, in addition to those that tend to disparately affect skin of color patients, such as pseudofolliculitis barbae or melasma. Furthermore, they also can incorporate more detailed discussions about important differences seen in skin of color patients.

More Skin of Color Photographs in Psoriasis Lectures—At institution 3, there were no skin of color patients included in the psoriasis lecture, even though there is considerable data in the literature indicating notable differences in the clinical presentation, quality-of-life impact, and treatment of psoriasis in skin of color patients.11,22 There are multiple nuances in psoriasis manifestation in patients with skin of color, including less-conspicuous erythema in darker skin, higher degrees of dyspigmentation, and greater body surface area involvement. For Black patients with scalp psoriasis, the impact of hair texture, styling practices, and washing frequency are additional considerations that may impact disease severity and selection of topical therapy.11 The lack of inclusion of any skin of color patients in the psoriasis lecture at one institution further underscores the pressing need to prioritize communities of color in medical education.


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