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Top Takeaways from the 19th Annual Skin of Color Scientific Symposium


The Skin of Color Society challenged dermatologists, residents, and medical students to address racial disparities in dermatologic care and shared best practices to serve patients of color.

The 19th Annual Skin of Color Scientific Symposium, Where Science, Innovation & Inclusion Meet, shared insightful research, treatment solutions, and a call to action for additional research and advocacy in conjunction with the 2023 American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) Annual Meeting. The Skin of Color Society (SOCS) is dedicated to advancing skin of color dermatology through research, education, mentorship, and advocacy.1 The content, coordinated by SOCS and presented by clinicians and medical school students, aligned with a plan set forth by AAD 2 years ago.

“In 2021, AAD announced its 3-year plan to expand diversity, equity, and inclusion in dermatology,” researchers said in an article outlining racial disparities in the derm space. “One way to reduce disparities in dermatology is for every dermatologist, regardless of race or ethnicity, to receive adequate education in diseases, treatments, health equity, and tailored approaches to delivering dermatologic care with cultural humility. In addition, a diverse dermatologic workforce-especially at the level of residency program educators and organizational leaders-will contribute to improved cross-cultural understanding, more inclusive research efforts, and improved treatment approaches for conditions that are more prevalent or nuanced in certain racial/ethnic populations.”2

There were four common themes throughout the symposium: Advancements in Treatment, Encouraging Advocacy and Education, Further Research Needed, and Encouraging the Next Generation.

Advancements in Treatment

Clinicians and researchers delved into treatment options covering a vast number of skin conditions affecting people of color. A moderated panel on JAK inhibitors showed how the treatment goes beyond atopic dermatitis. John Harris, MD, PhD, FAAD shared his experience from 15 years of research that JAK inhibitors can help vitiligo patients. Nonetheless, JAK inhibitors are a pricey treatment, especially in underserved populations lacking health insurance, access to specialized dermatologic care, or primary care providers who may not be knowledgeable on JAK inhibitors.

Encouraging Advocacy and Education

The need for advocacy and education were prevalent themes in nearly all symposium sessions. Avery LaChance, MD, MPH, FAAD encouraged the importance of law and policy knowledge. She walked the audience through cases of how dermatologists have come together to address the need for solutions in hair-based discrimination and the quality-of-life toll it takes—which led to the passing of the CROWN Act in 20 states, addressing tanning bed restrictions and bill to prevent skin cancer cases in youth, advocating for wigs to be considered medical equipment covered by insurance for alopecia patients to have an improved quality of life, and pointing out how digital redlining affects access to Telehealth in underserved communities. She ultimately encouraged medical school students, residents, and clinicians to become their patient’s best advocates and keep in touch with their local, state, and federal representatives in order to create a more equitable health care system.

A Skin Cancer Updates in Skin of Color panel shared that data hasn’t changed for decades in Latin and Hispanic populations, even as those populations continue to grow in the US. Rebeca Vasquez, MD, FAAD shared a patient case where the patient was told a lump on his back was a suspected cyst by his primary care physician. When he made the long drive to the nearest dermatology office available to him, it was diagnosed as an alarming skin cancer requiring aggressive treatment that could have been potentially prevented withadditional resources to educate primary care providers on skin conditions that need a dermatology referral.

Further Research Needed

Many presenters addressed the importance of ensuring diversity in clinical trials. Junko Takeshita, MD, PhD, MSCE, FAAD presented a session sharing experiences furthering the need. Takeshita conducted research in a study addressing the overrepresentation of White patients in clinical trials for acne, atopic dermatitis, and psoriasis, which can affect treatment results for Black, Hispanic/Latino, and Asian/Pacific Islander patients.3

“Race and ethnicity reporting among all trials, and the racial and ethnic distribution of US participants were compared by skin disease, intervention type, and trial phase. In total, 103 articles representing 119 unique trials were evaluated,” the study concluded. “Race and ethnicity were reported in only 22.7% of trials."

In the session “Molecular Insights into Central Citrifugal Cicatricial Alopecia (CCCA)” by Crystal Aguh, MD, FAAD, she addressed how CCCA was blamed on women diagnosed with the disorder for decades because of using hair styling methods like hot combs, chemical relaxers, weaves in braids. In her academic research in CCCA, she discovered a number of other commonalities with CCCA patients, including type 2 diabetes and fibroproliferatic genes creating exaggerated scarring. Aguh was a 2029 SOCS research award recipient, which allowed her to have the resources necessary to dig deep in research.

SOCS provides valuable resources for funding, grant writing, and more to make strides in ensuring diverse representation in research.

Empowering the Next Generation

While SOCS ensures equitable education and research, one of the organization’s most important initiatives is mentorship the next generation of those providing dermatologic care and empowering those with skin of color to practice dermatology. Aside from hosting iPoster sessions ahead of the symposium, in-person abstract presentations innovation grant presentations also encouraged young minds to advance medicine. Keynote speaker Freeman Hrabowski, PhD inspired several medical school students and residents to stay curious and take action as they pursue STEM careers.

“The biggest takeaway I got from Dr. Hrabowski’s keynote was so good that I put it in my phone,” said Yemisi Dina, MD and Johns Hopkins resident. “He said ‘thoughts become words, which leads to habits, which builds character and leads to your destiny.’ That resonated with me as I’m wrapping up residency and trying to figure out my next steps.”

Dina told Dermatology Times® she’s looking forward to a future in Mohs surgery and looks forward to those sessions throughout the weekend at AAD.

For more information about SOCS membership, mentorship, and resources, visit skinofcolorsociety.org.


1. 19th annual SOCS Scientific Symposium. Skin of Color Society. Published 2023. Accessed March 16, 2023. https://skinofcolorsociety.org/19th-annual-skin-of-color-society-scientific-symposium/.

2. Narla S, Heath CR, Alexis A, Silverberg JI. Racial disparities in dermatology. Arch Dermatol Res. 2022;1-9. doi:10.1007/s00403-022-02507-z

3. Sevagamoorthy A, Sockler P, Akoh C, Takeshita J. Racial and ethnic diversity of US participants in clinical trials for acne, atopic dermatitis, and psoriasis: A comprehensive review. Journal of Dermatological Treatment. 2022;33(8):3086-3097. doi:10.1080/09546634.2022.2114783

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