SOCS In the News: Understanding Healthcare Disparities Affecting People of Color

July 21, 2020
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As leaders and members of the Skin of Color Society know firsthand, various dermatologic conditions can manifest differently on darker skin, ranging from subtle to dramatic variances. Recognizing these differences and discerning the nuances are essential to avoid misdiagnosis, mistreatment or serious complications involving patients of color.

The historical dearth of images in medical literature depicting various dermatologic conditions in skin of color is slowly changing, thanks largely to the seminal contributions of many SOCS leaders, including skin of color dermatology textbooks, book chapters and journal articles; original images to dermatology organizations as well as VisualDx; and social media content to raise awareness and educate fellow dermatologists, derms-in-training, other physicians, patients and the media.

In recent months, writers from numerous news media outlets have contacted us with a heightened interest in better understanding the root causes of health disparities affecting people of color. One recent article written by London writer Rhea Cartwright was published in The Zoe Report, entitled, “Why Dermatologists Specializing In Black Skin Are Scarce — & The Best Way To Find Ones That Do.” This excellent piece examines various factors contributing to the disproportionate care of people of color and provides helpful information for dermatologists, other physicians and patients of color.

SOCS President Lynn McKinley-Grant, MD contributed heavily to this piece. As she notes, “If you’re not training in an area that has a diverse demographic, you won’t get to see the disorders in different skin tones. Erythema and redness present themselves differently on darker skin — you have to look for varying shades of purple rather than pinks and red that you see on white patients. Whether in dermatology or any other specialty, it’s crucial that doctors can recognize very early signs of redness and infection.”

This is where the work of SOCS comes into the picture. “SOCS helps to fund mentorship and clinical observership for dermatology residents to travel to different programs in the country in order to experience patients of color,” comments Dr. McKinley-Grant. For more information about SOCS mentorship and observership programs, visit