Mentorship Program Experiences

Learn more about the SOCS Mentorship Program through the experiences of our past mentees.

Mentorship program applications open August 1.

My experience with the Skin of Color Society Mentorship program was excellent! I was paired with a mentor that I already knew personally, which allowed for immediate rapport and comfortability. Dr. Eva Kerby was my mentor, and she and I both did our undergraduate studies at Duke University. We knew each other well back then, and I remember talking with her about our dreams to be Dermatologists all those years ago. It was a pleasant surprise when I saw I had been paired with her!

Dr. Kerby was a fantastic mentor, and she is someone I plan to keep in touch with throughout my career. Talking to her has widened my perspective on what is possible to do during my first few years out of residency. Dr. Kerby incorporates general, surgical, and cosmetic dermatology into her practice and utilizes these skills in her skin of color interests as well. This is what I hope to do in the next few years after residency. Diversifying my skillset early on will help me figure out which topics in Skin of Color, and Dermatology in general, I feel the most passionate about. At my training program, it is not common to have a provider do a combination of general, surgical, and cosmetic dermatology, so having Dr. Kerby to share ideas with and get a feel for how one can successfully mix these in their practice was inspiring. Hearing her journey to discovering her interests in skin of color has also been valuable. I am not sure what “niche” I will pursue just yet, but Dr. Kerby provided sage advice on how to clarify these interests for the future. 

Additionally, Dr. Kerby has been an invaluable resource as I look for jobs. I have reached out to her at every step of my job search and will continue to do so. This search can be intimidating for those of us who have never attempted to look for a job in Dermatology, and having wise counsel is crucial. She has helped me sift out offers that are not in my best interest, and she has also helped to point out aspects of a contract/offer that may be red flags. I would not have been able to approach the job search with as much insight without her input. I am very grateful for her. 

Lastly, Dr. Kerby is a wife and mother, and she can relate to me in a special way because of this. I have been able to learn from her experiences and see how she handles work/family balance as a practicing Academic Dermatologist. Above all, I hope to establish this balance well throughout my career. 

Imara-Safi Scott
Duke Dermatology, PGY4
2021 SOCS Mentorship Program Summary

I was fortunate to complete my SOCS Mentorship with Dr. Andrew Alexis. We were able to cover many topics over the course of the year.

We began by thinking through my specific clinical interests within the field of skin of color. Through our discussions, Dr. Alexis helped me realize my particular interest in vitiligo and pigmentation disorders. This has been very helpful for me as I think about developing expertise in skin of color broadly but also seeking opportunities to build deeper expertise in these areas. We also discussed opportunities to get involved in scholarship, writing, and speaking, and I really appreciated his encouragement to get involved in these areas to help advance our field. 

Dr. Alexis also gave me very practical and helpful advice regarding building my leadership skills and experience as well. He recommended getting involved with committees in my hospital system and in dermatology organizations. He noted these can be great opportunities to collaborate with others, make connections and develop different skills. He encouraged me to take on smaller roles in these arenas at the beginning, noting that doing a great job at one thing often leads to larger opportunities down the road. 

I feel very fortunate to have connected with Dr. Alexis and to have learned from him this year. I am very grateful to him and to SOCS for supporting my learning and development through this mentorship program.

Nicole Gunasekera, MD, MBA
2021 SOCS Mentorship Program Summary

Being a resident during the pandemic has made it difficult to form connections with skin of color faculty. I really enjoyed my experience with the mentorship program and am grateful to the SOCS for allowing me to meet Dr. Janiene Luke at Loma Linda. For the last year, I have had the opportunity to develop a mentor relationship with Dr. Luke through our monthly zoom meetings. As a third-year resident, I found our meetings to be very useful for discussing post residency career planning, cosmetics, and how to supplement my knowledge to feel more comfortable treating skin diseases in skin of color patients. Most importantly, I was able to openly discuss my own feelings of inadequacy and “imposter syndrome” that I have experienced in residency and during my job search. 

The most memorable part of the experience was meeting Dr. Luke at the SOCS AAD pre-meeting in March. It was great to meet someone in person that I felt I had already known well from zoom. 

My take aways from the experience are to trust in my abilities, not be afraid to ask questions, and be assured that even after residency there is continued learning while in practice. I am excited to continue to connect with Dr. Luke and update her about my career journey. 

Krystina Quow
2021 SOCS Mentorship Program Summary

Thanks to the Skin of Color Society Mentorship Program, my time with Dr. Kenner-Bell has been enriching, educationally and professionally. She was attune to many of the same challenges that I experienced navigating the healthcare field as not only a minority but also a woman. Through our many zoom sessions, she shared with me her journey into dermatology and the obstacles she had to overcome. Additionally, as a practicing pediatric-dermatologist, wife, and mother she revealed to me the realities of fulfilling these roles and how to strive for the best work-life balance. Dr. Kenner-Bell is a natural mentor; She spent time reviewing my CV with me, sharing dermatological research opportunities, and discussing ways to enhance my application. She also became my biggest cheerleader and confidant, supporting and encouraging me on my journey and always lending an open ear during times of doubt. Dr. Kenner-Bell has served as real-life confirmation that my dreams of becoming a dermatologist are valid and attainable and has given me the self-efficacy and confidence to relentlessly pursue the field of dermatology.

Realization of my goal necessitates professional mentorship, opportunities to conduct clinical research, and a thorough understanding of the field of dermatology. Upon completion of the mentorship program, I have created a personal and professional relationship with my mentor, become knowledgeable on the principles of career and professional development in the dermatology field, and found opportunities to connect with diverse dermatologists that specialize in skin of color. Additionally, I have gained insight on the dermatology application process, and becoming a multi-faceted, well-rounded dermatology applicant. Through the opportunities afforded by the Skin of Color Society, I look forward to joining a network of passionate physicians dedicated to improving the dermatological disorders that plague skin of color.

Deciding to pursue dermatology as a Black female is a journey on an untrodden trail. The paucity of role models, representation, and resources to support Black students interested in dermatology is stark. Finding opportunities like the Skin of Color Society Mentorship program is crucial for me in my pursuit of matching into a dermatology residency program and achieving my goal of becoming a practicing dermatologist and minority health clinical researcher. 

I understand not having a seat at the table. As a future dermatologist, I’m determined to pay it forward and create more seats for those behind me, providing my mentorship and expertise to the next generation of dermatologists so that they can realize their dreams just as I have.

Ashley Obi, MD
2021 SOCS Mentorship Program Summary

Dear SOCS mentorship committee, 

It has been an absolute pleasure to be mentored by Dr. Tarannum Jaleel through your program. As an Iranian immigrant with skin that sometimes passes as White and sometimes does not, I do not necessarily see my skin represented in traditional dermatology media – let alone that of my Black and Brown friends. When the pandemic struck in early 2020, I came across your SOCS mentorship program on Instagram. As a Canadian medical student, I was grateful to match to a mentor from the US, which is championing the SOC representation movement.

Despite the uncertain times of the pandemic, my final year of medical school, and Dr. Jaleel’s maternity leave, we still managed to meet a total of 3 meaningful times over the past year on Zoom. One of the most valuable outcomes for me was to learn more from Dr. Jaleel about the few SOC textbooks that existed at the time. With Dr. Jaleel’s encouragement, I helped make change in a big way on a local scale – I led the Dermatology component of an anti-racist review of McGill’s entire pre-clerkship curriculum. As the Dermatology lead, I dove into ethnodermatology resources and found SOC pictures to include alongside each condition in our dermatology lectures. I am most proud of the feedback we have received from classmates, residents, and staff physicians, who shared they are finally seeing themselves in their lectures.

With Dr. Jaleel, we also discussed advancing my other research interests. She connected me with International Dermatology Outcome Measures groups for these respective areas and liaised me with local leaders in Canada doing similar work.

Dr. Jaleel and I also had candid, meaningful conversations beyond research: her experience as a woman and mother in dermatology, how to advocate for appropriate maternity leave, renumeration as a dermatologist in Canada versus the US, and the ever-interesting debate of cosmetic versus medical dermatology. Dr. Jaleel held space for me to be open and vulnerable, and despite our never having met in-person I feel very connected to her. 

Lastly, as a Canadian, I believe it is worthy to note my appreciation to the SOCS for opening this opportunity to Canadian medical students as well. I have learned so much from my American mentor, and I believe the international perspective and experience added much value to my experience. I sincerely hope more Canadian medical students will be able to benefit from this as much as I have!

Finally, as of 3 days ago (match day was April 12 2022 in Canada) I am now officially a future dermatologist! I matched to Dermatology at McGill University. I am elated to be able to continue the important SOC work that I have already begun here, and am indebted to Dr. Tarannum as well as many other leaders I have connected with through the SOCS. I met Dr. Alexis and Dr. Taylor in-person recently at the AAD 2022 Boston conference, and it was such a joy to thank them in person. I hope to attend the upcoming SOCS conference in New York later this year as well and continue to thank the SOCS leaders that have shaped the kind of future dermatologist I will be!

With many thanks,

Nickoo Merati

Nickoo Merati
4th year medical student
McGill University
Montréal, Quebec
2021 SOCS Mentorship Program Summary

I found the SOCS mentorship experience to be very beneficial. The first time I met with my mentor, Dr. Mhlaba, was shortly after starting my fourth year of medical school. We had a call to introduce ourselves, and we discussed my interests in dermatology and skin of color. Dr. Mhlaba was very supportive in giving advice to help me select away rotation programs that are strong in skin of color, and she even connected me with a current resident at the program that I eventually rotated at. She also assisted by recommending residency programs with skin of color experts that I should research and consider applying to. At the beginning residency interview season, Dr. Mhlaba gave me a practice interview, which was extremely beneficial in helping me prepare for the questions I would be asked. After the conclusion of interview season, I had follow-up questions about one particular program that I was interested in. Dr. Mhlaba connected me with one of her colleagues who had done residency at this program, who was able to have a phone call with me to answer my questions. Our ability to meet in person was limited due to factors related to Covid-19, but I was always met with support anytime I reached out, and Dr. Mhlaba would make sure to check in on me occasionally during crucial steps of the application process. I was very appreciative of the insight and information that I received from my mentor, and it made a big difference in how I approached fourth-year and residency applications. For this reason, I found the SOCS mentorship program to be quite useful.

Seneca Hutson
2021 SOCS Mentorship Program Summary

First, I’d like to thank the Skin of Color Society for organizing this wonderful mentorship program for dermatology residents in North America. I was paired with Dr. Vineet Mishra for this mentorship program for the past year. Although I am in Vancouver, Canada, I was able to connect virtually with Dr. Mishra. We discussed about the issues of Skin of Color in dermatology during our meet-up. We also discussed about my career goals and Dr. Mishra shared useful tips to help me succeed in residency. Based on our conversation, I was inspired to investigate the issue of dermatology education in the area of skin of color for Canadian dermatology residents. I published a commentary titled “Dermatology education in skin of colour: where we are and where do we go?” in the Canadian Medical Education Journal. I was also connected with Dr. Mishra on the research level as I am currently working on some research projects that demonstrate our common interests. I am looking forward to meeting Dr. Mishra in person when he will be attending the AAD Innovation Conference in July 2022. Thank you again for this wonderful program that helps residents connect with experts and advocates in the areas of Skin of Color!

Harry Liu, MD
2021 SOCS Mentorship Program Summary

As a student without a dermatology home program, I am so thankful to the Skin of Color Society’s Mentorship program and to Dr. Pierre. Dr Pierre is the first mentor in Dermatology I have had and has provided me with invaluable guidance and direction. He is a goal-oriented mentor and I always look forward to our check-in sessions. Any question or concern regarding my plans or endeavors, I have an objective, knowledgeable ear. We discuss strategy, residency, resilience, and the makings of a patient-centered dermatologist. I hope that one day I can meet him in person and thank him again for everything he has done for me.

Chrislene Olukoga 
2021 SOCS Mentorship Program Summary