Skin of color remains an underrepresented area of study among dermatology residents, suggests study data published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. Across 25 accredited US dermatology programs, just 7.5% of residents expressed a specific research interest in skin of color.
In June of 2020, investigators evaluated the websites of all 142 US dermatology residency programs. Programs were screened for publicly available trainee lists with stated interests. Each residents’ interests were reviewed and categorized. Resident demographics were also extracted using information available on the same websites. Interest in skin of color was determined by explicit mention of “skin color,” “ethnic skin,” or similar phrases.
Of 142 program websites, 25 (17.6%) provided lists of residents and stated interests. From these 25 programs, a total of 249 resident profiles were reviewed. It was found that 7.5% of these residents declared interest in treating skin of color, of whom 77% were women and 72% were people of color. These data suggested to the researchers that the provision of dermatologic care to patients of color tends to fall on people of color themselves, who make up just “a fraction of the dermatology workforce.” Lack of representation in dermatology education can lead to insufficient care; many patients of color may have specific needs that are unaddressed by current treatment standards. Although dermatology organizations like the Skin of Color Society have worked to increase equity in dermatology practice, there remain improvements to be made, the researchers wrote.
The primary study limitation was the small sample size as slightly more than 17% of programs listed trainee interests. Wider evaluation of dermatology programs may be necessary to confirm these results.
Even so, “[these] findings suggest that residents interested in skin of color are predominantly and perhaps unsurprisingly people of color themselves,” the study authors wrote. “Increased representation and education on skin of color in residency programs may be the catalyst needed to drive widespread interest among trainees.”
Okoji UK, Lipoff JB. Demographics of US dermatology residents interested in skin of color: an analysis of website profiles [published online October 7, 2020]. J Am Acad Dermatol. doi: 10.1016/j.jaad.2020.09.092