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GW School of Medicine and Pfizer Award Grants to Bring Teledermatology to Underserved Communities


Four grants were awarded for communities in communities in Miami-Dade County, Florida; Los Angeles County, California; rural communities in Oregon, and downtown Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Nattakorn/Adobe Stock
Nattakorn/Adobe Stock

In an effort to bridge the health care gap in underserved communities across the United States, the George Washington University (GW) School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) has teamed up with Pfizer Global Medical Grants to award grants to four institutions. These grants will be used to implement GW's Teledermatology Help Desk Clinic model with the aim of providing quality dermatologic care for inflammatory skin conditions to those who have limited access.1

The selected communities for this initiative include Miami-Dade County, Florida; Los Angeles County, California; rural areas in Oregon; and downtown Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Earlier this year, GW and Pfizer announced their grant partnership and began seeking grant applications.

"If we have these free clinics being maintained through various funding pathways, it enables us to at a minimum, bring someone in to the fold," said Adam Friedman, MD, FAAD, chair of Dermatology and residency program director at the George Washington (GW) School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS), in a previous interview with Dermatology Times. Friedman was the recipient of a quality improvement project grant, wherein he took part in developing and supporting a teledermatology initiative in underserved communities within the Washington, DC, area.

"Maybe all they need is that open door. Maybe this person has every means to see a dermatologist; they don't know the first step, they just don't know how to do that, or they don't even know what telemedicine is. So forget it. It's not something they want to do. We can really open their eyes to what telemedicine is, what dermatology is, change their perception of dermatology, because maybe their perception of derm is not what it needs to be to seek out the necessary care, and now these are lifelong patients," Friedman said. "There are innumerable outcomes that can really evolve from even just doing a 1-year program, which I hope will then will be sustained over time through other support."

Read more from Dermatology Times here.

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the severe disparities in health care access, especially in rural and low-income regions. In response to this issue, GW School of Medicine established a Teledermatology Free Clinic for residents in Wards 7 and 8 of Washington, D.C. Collaborating with the Rodham Institute and the Temple of Praise Church, the clinic allowed patients to become part of the GW medical records system and provided them with guidance on telemedicine best practices, comprehensive education on atopic dermatitis (AD), and free telemedicine visits with dermatology experts.

Key Takeaways

  • GW SMHS and Pfizer are granting funds to four institutions to implement teledermatology programs in underserved communities.
  • These programs aim to provide quality dermatologic care for inflammatory skin conditions in areas with limited access to health care.
  • Initiatives will focus on culturally competent care, education, and telemedicine access, with plans to expand in the future.

A post-engagement survey revealed that the majority of participants (70%) did not have access to a dermatologist prior to the program, but after participating, nearly all (94%) expressed extreme satisfaction and reported that the clinic significantly improved their AD management (90%). Recognizing the transformative potential of this approach, GW and Pfizer decided to expand its reach.

"Access to telemedicine is the starting line because it eliminates traditional barriers to care such as transportation needs, distance from specialty providers, and approved time off from work or even child or elder care responsibilities," Friedman said. "We offer our sincere congratulations and appreciation to the four teams that will expand our model to other underserved communities in the United States."

Funded by Pfizer Global Medical Grants, the recipients of the "Quality Improvement Initiative: Bridging the Inflammatory Dermatosis Care Divide with Teledermatology Grant Program" are as follows:

  1. Miami-Dade County, Florida: Scott Elman, Director of Connective Tissue Disease Clinic at the University of Miami, will target the Overtown Subdivision, a historic district with high percentages of residents living below the federal poverty line. The team plans to create a free clinic in collaboration with Lotus House, serving homeless women and infants, and will provide culturally competent interventions in English and Spanish to address disparities in inflammatory skin disease.
  2. Los Angeles County, California: Nada Elbuluk, MD, Associate Professor of Clinical Dermatology at the Keck School of Medicine, USC, and founder of the Derm RISES and Dermmunity programs, will lead the USC Dermmunity Telemedicine Initiative (DTI). Building on the work of Dermmunity, the DTI will offer teledermatology and education on dermatologic conditions to communities of color.
  3. Rural Communities in Oregon: Dr. Alex Ortega-Loayza, Associate Professor of Dermatology at the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), will partner with the Oregon Rural Practice-based Research Network (ORPRN) to train healthcare providers in teledermatology. These providers will then facilitate teledermatology visits with Ortega to address the dermatologic needs of rural communities across Oregon.
  4. Downtown Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Jules Lipoff, MD, in collaboration with Philadelphia FIGHT, a federally qualified health center, will establish a telemedicine dermatology clinic targeting a diverse patient population that includes individuals living with HIV, those who identify as LGBTQ+, and those experiencing homelessness.

All 4 awarded projects will conduct post-assessment surveys to measure patient satisfaction, uptake, and patient-reported outcomes. They will also monitor recruitment and enrollment rates, number of surveys completed, number of tele-visits scheduled and completed, and number of in-person visits scheduled and completed, with the goal of expanding this initiative even further in the future.


  1. Four grants awarded by the GW/Pfizer Global Medical Collaborative Grant Program to establish teledermatology programs in underserved communities across the United States. Newswise. October 18, 2023. Accessed October 23, 2023. https://www.newswise.com/articles/four-grants-awarded-by-the-gwpfizer-global-medical-collaborative-grant-program-to-establish-teledermatology-programs-in-underserved-communities-across-the-united-states
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