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Award Recipient to Focus on Atopic Dermatitis in Native Americans

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Kamran H. Imam, MD, hopes to unlock insights into the atopic disease burden among Native American populations.

Kamran H. Imam, MD, a 2023 Allergists’ Foundation Community Grant Awardee, is working on improving the understanding of atopic dermatitis in Native American patients.

Designed to encourage projects that address underserved patient populations as well as empower clinicians on the front lines of care, the grants are given annually for exploratory projects and implementation grants. Imam’s project’s is ”Burden of Atopic Disorders in American Indian/Native Alaskan Populations of San Diego County.”

Dermatology Times asked Imam to share some thoughts on this underserved population and his upcoming project.

“I was inspired by a report by Carla Davis, who does a lot of work in the underserved community. And I happen to notice that there wasn't a lot of data regarding allergic disease, specifically, eczema, food allergy, and asthma in the American Indian and Native Alaskan population. So that was my inspiration to pursue this as a research project in my fellowship.

“In the United States, there are zero reports on Native American populations in terms of allergic disease and in North America there are only 3 reports, which are all with the Canadian Native population. So it is an area in which information is desperately needed.

“The presence of allergic diseases, including atopic dermatitis, in the American Indian Native Alaskan community is an unknown entity. I'm hoping by doing this project we can enlighten some of our colleagues in the medical field and see what we can we do to bridge that gap in terms of this health care disparity.”

“The project itself is pretty simple. Because we have no data on the atopic disease burden in this population, we're trying to understand the differences in terms of incidence and prevalence of eczema, food allergy, asthma, and hay fever in this specific population, how it compares to the general population and other ethnicities to see if there's an increased rate of disease.

“In addition, we're going to explore health care disparities and barriers to care. For example, we're going to ask patients whether or not they have transportation issues, childcare issues, or finding coverage at work that is impacting access to care. Or cost of medications—are they too expensive for them to afford.

“By doing this, we're hoping to create a model that other centers around the country can use in their local native populations to determine the local disease burden in terms of allergies and chronic dermatitis. Hopefully, this is the start of something great in terms of bridging the gap with this specific community in mind, because there really hasn't been anything done so far.

“We don't know if eczema presents differently in the native population. We're well aware of the differences between light skin and dark skin when it comes to eczema. They present differently, but we're just not sure about how it presents in the native publishing. So this is a pilot study. And the whole point of this is to try and discover unknown facts about Natives and their skin.

“It's an area of research that that's desperately needed. If any dermatologists are interested in this specific niche in underserved populations—American Indian and Native Alaskan populations—in terms of their skin care, it's important because there's a lot of work that needs to be done in this space. Specifically, we are trying to make up for any deficiencies we have had in the past when it comes to providing health care to the population. So if there are any aspiring researchers in the field of dermatology, you would very easily get funding for projects like this because it's so desperately needed at this time.”

Transcript has been edited for style and length.

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