Observership Experiences

Experiences of some of our

SOCS Observership Grant Recipients


Mentee Autumn Saizan, BS with mentor Dr. Nada Elbuluk at Keck School of Medicine at University of Southern California, 2021 Observership Award

Mentee: Autumn Saizan, BS
Mentor: Nada Elbuluk, MD, MSc
Keck School of Medicine at University of Southern California
2021 Observership Award

During the 2021-2022 academic year, I completed the Skin of Color and Pigmentary Disorders Research Fellowship at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California with my mentor, Dr. Nada Elbuluk. During this time period, we completed a variety of projects. This included survey studies, chart reviews, literature reviews, case reports, clinical trials, and textbook chapter as well as several oral and poster presentations on our work. This fellowship also provided me the opportunity to care for dermatologic patients and become comfortable with the examination, diagnosis, and treatment of basic dermatologic conditions. Common conditions seen included acne, melasma, postinflammatory hyperpigmentation, and hair loss, particularly  central centrifugal cicatricial clopecia. Finally, this fellowship allowed me to become more involved in various community outreach programs and projects via two organizations created by Dr. Elbuluk, DermRISES (Reaching Inner City Students Through Education of the Sciences) and Dermmunity. DermRISES is dedicated to increasing interest in science and various healthcare occupations amongst kindergarten through college students who are historically underrepresented in medicine. Dermmunity is dedicated to educating various populations throughout LA, particularly the most medically marginalized communities, about skin health. Overall, the fellowship afforded me the opportunity to grow both personally and professionally.  

During my year-out, I sharpened my time-management skills and learned to balance research, clinic time, and studying. I learned to be resourceful, while also recognizing the importance of knowing when to ask for help. I became more confident in my own abilities. And for the first time in my career, I finally felt that I was capable of achieving the many goals I had set for myself. 

With respect to research, I learned to write cover letters, submit manuscripts, analyze data, design survey studies, give an effective oral presentation, and more. Before this year, I always struggled with writing. It is immensely gratifying, however, to see my improvement over these last few months. While I still have a great deal to learn, I am excited to develop my research skills further as I progress throughout my career. 

During the fellowship, I also learned how to best care for my future skin of color patients. I particularly enjoyed learning how to best diagnose and treat various dermatologic conditions, particularly those more prevalent in skin of color populations. 

Finally, I learned of ways I can be involved in community efforts as a future dermatologist and help our most historically underserved and neglected populations. I am so thankful to have found a fellowship and mentor so dedicated to diversity, equity, and inclusion, particularly with respect to pipeline programs. I look forward to continuing such efforts throughout my career, as I recognize the immense necessity of not only increasing underrepresented minority student interest in the sciences, but also ensuring their retention. 

I consider this fellowship to be one my greatest blessings, as it has given me the tools, I need to be a successful dermatologist, colleague, mentor, and friend. 

I would like to thank the Skin of Color Society for supporting me and this wonderful opportunity.


Mentee Brittany Feaster, MHS with mentor Dr. Amy McMichael at the Wake Forest Baptist Health, Department of Dermatology, 2020 Observership Award

Mentee: Brittany Feaster, MHS
Mentor: Amy McMichael, MD
Wake Forest Baptist Health, Department of Dermatology
2020 Observership Award

The Skin of Color Society Observership Grant program provided the platform for an invaluable experience. During the observership I worked with my mentor, Dr. Amy McMichael at Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. This amazing opportunity was tremendously impactful in furthering both my personal and career development as I pursue dermatology.  As a student without a home dermatology program, I must seek external opportunities for mentorship, research, and clinical exposure to the field. This program helped facilitate many meaningful opportunities. 

During my observership, I received both individualized mentorship as well as clinical experience. I highly valued Dr. McMichael’s willingness to offer guidance and answer questions. Our relationship has grown to be one that will certainly last for the future and she continues to be a source of inspiration and encouragement in my journey. I look forward to having Dr. McMichael as a mentor and sounding board as I progress in my career. 

I thoroughly appreciated the opportunity to attend clinic, particularly enjoying hair clinic. While I have had previous interest in hair loss, this was my first experience attending a clinic exclusively devoted to hair and scalp disorders. I was challenged to grow extensively as I learned the nuanced intricacies involved in the diagnosis and treatment of hair loss disorders and other dermatologic conditions. This program not only enhanced my clinical exposure to hair loss disorders and dermatology but also highlighted the importance of this work in the community.  

I am extremely thankful for the Skin of Color Society Observership Grant program. The experience has helped cultivate a strong relationship between myself and Dr. McMichael as well as solidify my vision to meaningfully contribute to the field as a dermatologist. 


Mentee: Simi Cadmus, MD
Mentor: Crystal Aguh, MD
Johns Hopkins Medicine, Department of Dermatology

Mentee: Caryn Cobb, BA
Mentor: Valerie Harvey, MD
Hampton Roads Center for Dermatology

Mentee: Elisabeth George, BA
Mentor: Susan Taylor, MD
Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania

Mentee: Nwanneka Okwundu
Mentor: Amy McMichael, MD
Wake Forest Baptist Health-Department of Dermatology

Mentee: Angel Pagan, BS
Mentor: Emma Guttman-Yatsky, MD
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

Mentee: Matthew Pimentel, MD
Mentor: Simi Oguleye, MD
University of Pennsylvania

Mentee: Natalia Rodriguez
Mentor: Susan Taylor, MD
Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania

Mentee: Autumn Saizan, BS
Mentor: Nada Elbuluk, MD, MSc
Keck School of Medicine at University of Southern California

Mentee: Pearl Ugwu-Dike, BS
Mentor: Michi Shinohara, MD
University of Washington

The 2021 SOCS Observership Grants were made possible thanks to the support from EltaMD, Inc., SENTÉ and SkinMedica/Allergan.
Mentee: Brittany Feaster, MHS
Mentor: Amy McMichael, MD
Wake Forest School of Medicine

Mentee: Alexis Holmes
Mentor: Donald Glass, II, MD, PhD
UT Southwestern Medical Center

Mentee: Padmavathi Karri, BSW
Mentor: John Harris, MD, PhD
University of Massachusetts Medical School

Mentee: Karan Lal, DO, MS
Mentor: Rashmi Sarkar, MD
Maulana Azad Medical College

The 2020 SOCS Observership Grants were made possible thanks to the support of  SkinMedica/Allergan.