Experiences of some of our
SOCS Observership Grant Recipients
Mentee: Melissa Alfredo, MD
Mentor: Cheri Frey, MD, FAAD
I would like to thank SOCS to this opportunity to do an Observership in Skin of color at Howard University with Dr. Cheri Frey. November was a special month for me, full of experiences and better understanding of treatments for black patients. Knowing the reality of dermatology outside my country was enriching! I appreciate all the support and I hope to be able to come back to the United States another time!
Learning is a blessing!
Mentee: Leandra Barnes, MD
Mentor: Ginette A. Okoye, MD
Howard University Hospital
Mentee: Henrietta De La Garza, MD
Mentor: Neelam Vashi, MD
Boston University/Boston Medical Center
Mentee: Shreya Deoghare, MBBS
Mentor: A. Shadi Kourosh, MD, FAAD
Massachusetts General Hospital
I am very thankful to the Skin Of Color Society (SOCS) for my selection for SOCS Observership program 2022 and the mentorship chairs Dr. Eva Kirby and Dr. Neelam Khan, for their constant support and motivation to make this possible. It was an honor to pursue a three week Observership at Massachusetts General Hospital at Boston, with Dr. Shadi Kourosh as my mentor. Dr. Kourosh is a very accomplished dermatologist and very well guided me about future career opportunities in dermatology.
I had a great opportunity to observe and learn about various dermatoses, especially the pre-cancerous skin conditions as well as melanocyte and non- melanocytes skin cancers – conditions that are uncommon in India.
I also had a chance to learn about the advance treatment guidelines, like biologicals and other new molecules for common diseases like psoriasis and atopic dermatitis among many others. This has definitely helped me meet my goals of improving my clinical skills as a dermatologist, to diagnose skin disorder across all skin types as well as learn about the advanced treatment modalities, that are not yet the standard of care in India. I also got a chance to rotate at the combined dermatology-rheumatology clinics and in-patient dermatology consults at MGH.
My experience at MGH Revere and MGH Chelsea, was a great one as well ! I was amazed to see the standard of healthcare being provided even at peripheral locations. This Skin of Color Observership program helped not only in my professional growth but also personal growth, by supporting me to take a step ahead and move outside my country to acquire advanced knowledge and skills in dermatology. I am very grateful to the SOCS and sponsors for this opportunity.
-Shreya Deoghare, MBBS
Mentee: Pauline Flaum-Dunoyer
Mentor: Andrew F. Alexis, MD, MPH
Weill Cornell Medicine
My experience working with Dr. Andrew Alexis over four weeks can best be summarized as productive, joyful, and inspiring. On my first day, I was asked what I would like to get out of the rotation. I responded: to learn the most that I can in a month, while getting in the way the least that I can. I say with confidence that I achieved the former. As for the latter, I was pleasantly surprised when I technically did not accomplish this goal, at least, not as I originally imagined it. As a medical student, I have learned to blend into the walls behind me. I am sure many of my fellow students understand what I mean. We try to hover enough to learn but not to disturb. During my rotation, this did not feel necessary. It was easy to find my place among the staff, seamlessly joining into the choreography of clinic and patient care. There were a few missteps, but I never felt like I disrupted the corps. I attribute this to Dr. Alexis and his staff – they created the welcoming atmosphere which allowed me to thrive as part of their team.
I am grateful to the patients as well. I met many each day (it is a busy clinic!) and felt like with each patient, I learned a new lesson I could apply to the next patient. Conversation, and subsequent counsel, became natural and informative. I found myself particularly adept at hair loss consultations. Dr. Alexis has a very structured plan for managing hair loss, no matter the etiology. I learned the steps of this plan on the first day and was able to track my own progress as I familiarized myself with this paramount issue in dermatology, especially in patients with Skin of Color. As a Black woman, I felt strong in my cultural competence with this subject. I was able to meet my patients where they were, through kinship and understanding, strengthened by the wealth of knowledge that Dr. Alexis provided. I built trust with my patients, encouraged by the trust Dr. Alexis and his team had in me.
My joy sprang from newfound confidence in my ability to present my findings, decide on a plan, and convey that plan to the team, all the while explaining the plan to my patients in ways that were digestible and agreeable. My joy continued in the little moments shared with the medical assistants over lunch, commiserating about our lives and shared experiences, or funny anecdotes.
I left the rotation feeling sad it was ending but inspired in so many ways. My commitment to this field was reinforced and I feel excited about my future. I am grateful to know that Dr. Alexis will be a mentor to me for hopefully many years, in my corner supporting my ambitions. Finally, I am inspired by this opportunity in general, and hope that wherever I end up in my career in dermatology, I can pay it forward and welcome others to thrive in dermatology.
Mentee: Marycarmen Flores, BA
Mentor: Andrew F. Alexis, MD, MPH
Weill Cornell Medicine
Mentee: Preetha Kamath, MD
Mentor: Lynn Cornelius, MD
Washington University in St. Louis
The Skin of Color Society Observership Grant program allowed me to have an invaluable experience at Washington University in St. Louis working with Dr. Cornelius and Dr. Mwanthi. Prior to my Observership, I was able to connect virtually with my mentors to talk with them about my interests and career goals. We were able to brainstorm ideas and work on a virtual project analyzing social media content pertaining to acral melanoma.
During my Observership, I received both individualized mentorship as well as clinical experience. I had the opportunity to work in the dedicated skin of color clinic and learn pearls to help with making challenging diagnoses as well as tailored management for these patients. I particularly enjoyed learning about the broad spectrum of inflammatory dermatoses such as lichen planus and how to manage pigmentary concerns. I also had the opportunity to learn about mole mapping and new technologies to aid with identification of suspicious pigmented lesions which can be especially challenging to identify in patients with darker skin. My mentors were kind enough to share additional interesting cases and kodachromes with me in skin of color patients. During my rotation I gave a presentation at grand rounds discussing acral melanoma and public health initiatives to increase awareness of this disease entity.
This program has been an amazing opportunity that will have a significant impact on both my personal and career development. I am extremely thankful for the Skin of Color Society Observership Grant program for supporting me and allowing me to build new relationships with mentors who are supportive of the goals that I have set for myself. As I transition to the next chapter in my career, I feel better equipped to care for skin of color populations and will take the pearls that I have learned with me as I progress. Furthermore, I look forward to being part of this program and similar initiatives throughout my career, given the need for not only increasing underrepresented minority student interest in our profession but also ensuring retention. This grant program has provided me with more tools to be a successful dermatologist, colleague, and mentor.
Mentee: Jennifer Laborada, BS
Mentor: Mark Lebwohl, MD
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
As a student without a home dermatology program, I am incredibly thankful to the Skin of Color Society and to my mentor Dr. Mark Lebwohl for this valuable experience. Over the course of 4 weeks, I worked alongside Dr. Lebwohl in the dermatology clinic at Mount Sinai Hospital. From the first day, I was welcomed as part of the team and given proper introduction and training. With each patient, I learned to take a thorough history and deliver a concise oral presentation. Through carefully observing Dr. Lebwohl during patient encounters, I gained insight into his clinical reasoning and decision making. In particular, it was helpful to hear his expertise in counseling patients on various topics, from psoriasis to biologics to skin cancer.
Above all, what was most memorable to me was Dr. Lebwohl’s compassion and excellent bed-side manner towards his patients. He is an excellent role model, and I aspire to deliver the same exceptional patient care as a future dermatologist.
Outside of clinic, I engaged in didactics and various scholarly pursuits with my mentor’s guidance. Upon seeing an interesting case of dupilumab-induced guttate psoriasis, I wrote up a case report and submitted it for publication. In addition, I joined an exciting research project to develop a more objective tool for assessing the severity of psoriasis in skin of color, which I am continuing to this day. Although the Observership is over, the knowledge and skills I acquired are indeed life-long and instrumental in developing my career as a future leader in skin of color dermatology.
Mentee: Jazmin Newton
Mentor: Susan Taylor, MD
Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania
Participating in the Skin of Color Society mentorship program played a crucial role in advancing my pursuit of a career in dermatology and further ignited my passion for this expansive field of medicine. The opportunity to work with Dr. Susan Taylor at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine was an unmatched experience for my education and future career. I had the opportunity to learn in depth about hair loss from an expert in the field, as well as learn about the innerworkings of clinical trials using novel drugs for common, distressing diseases.
I participated in scholarly work and undertook projects with ample guidance and support each step of the way. Additionally, the chance to be mentored by a Black female physician with similar interests and career goals was invaluable. Representation in medicine matters not only for patients, but also students and trainees—the chance to connect with someone like Dr. Taylor, that parallels who I want to be as a future physician and educator, was refreshing and empowering. I am forever grateful for this opportunity and look forward to giving back in a similar fashion as my career in medicine advances.
Mentee: Aderonke Obayami, MD, MPH
Mentor: Elyse Love, MD
The Skin of Color Society Observership Grant allowed me to have an
amazing experience to work with Dr. Elyse Love at GlamDerm in New York City.
As residents, we have limited glances into life as a private practice
Dermatologist. This was an amazing opportunity to get a sneak peak of what
daily life in private practice looks like. Dr. Love was very welcoming,
accommodating and made me feel like I was a part of the team! Every day I
learned about new techniques that I hope to one day incorporate into my
Dr. Love is full of wisdom: from novel lasers, injection techniques,
chemical peels, the business of medicine, popular prescription and non-
prescription topicals, and how to protect yourself from burnout, this was an
invaluable experience! Dr. Love has already built a loyal patient following and is a
star within Dermatology. A career certainly worth emulating! Dr. Love was very
open, and we discussed my career goals and navigating life after residency. I am
so thankful to the Skin of Color Society for providing me with this opportunity to
have gained a new mentor, colleague, and friend.
Mentee: Chidubem Okeke
Mentor: Angel Byrd, MD, PhD
Department of Dermatology, Howard University College of Medicine
Mentee: Ogechukwu Opaigbeogu, BS
Mentor: Valerie Callender, MD, FAAD
Callender Dermatology and Cosmetic Center
I had the immense privilege to complete a rotation in the clinic of Dr. Valerie Callender this past May. This experience was made possible by the Skin of Color Society Observership Grant. During my month with Dr. Callender, I had the opportunity to work on both her medical and cosmetic side. I currently go to a medical school that does not have a dermatology department and does not offer a dermatology elective. This observership grant and rotation with Dr. Callender allowed me to get clinical experience that I otherwise would not have had the opportunity to receive.
On the medical side I got to see many complex dermatologic cases such as Central Centrifugal Cicatricial Alopecia. Many of the patients were in different stages of treatment including patients who had just been diagnosed and patients who had been undergoing treatment for a while and now were starting to see hair re-growth. I also was able to see many cases of acne vulgaris. During my time, I was able to assist with surgeries, discuss differential diagnoses, and ask questions about the various diseases I encountered.
On the cosmetic side, I was especially excited to see laser hair removal on darker skin types. Many dermatologist do not offer this procedure for darker skin types so it was really amazing seeing the procedure performed on patients with darker skin tones and seeing how the machine settings are adjusted to make it possible.
Overall the experience was a really great one and I am really appreciative to SOCS and the funders for providing this opportunity.
Mentee: Deborah Paul, MD
Mentor: Sotonye Imadojemu, MD
Harvard/Brigham and Women’s Hospital
I am so grateful to have had the opportunity and support to spend a week gaining exposure to skin of color dermatology and complex medical dermatology at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH). I spent the week with Dr. Sontonye Imadojemu and her colleagues at the Brigham; Drs. Joseph Merola (Rheumatology-dermatology), Avery LaChance (complex medical dermatology), and William Tsiaris (complex medical dermatology and complex wound healing) exploring these subspecialty clinics.
I spent my week elective rotating through a combination of those subspecialty clinics, in addition to rotating through the inpatient consult service in the afternoons. Some of my most memorable patient encounters from that week was in the skin of color clinics, seeing the impact of racial congruent care for these patients and the ease at which they opened up and shared vulnerable/self-conscious details about their illnesses. I was humbled by one patient who was willing to travel back and forth between states to continue her care to be seen in the skin of color clinic and her expression of gratitude for having a doctor “who sees” her and who has shared experiences.
In the complex medical dermatology clinics, I was able to see a few puzzling medical mysteries that I still think about today. Through those cases, I learned how to push my knowledge to exhaust all clinical resources to provide the most comprehensive care and to also be at ease with the unknown which I will surely face in my career. The most important lesson that I learned from those encounters is that sometimes the goal of management may just be at preserving and maintaining quality of life and shared decision making is perhaps the most critical in those encounters.
In addition to the robust and diverse clinical experience that I received; the mentorship was also significant. It is a relationship that I hope to continue as I define my identity in Dermatology and navigate these early stages of my career. Although short, my experience during the week rotation confirmed the passion that I had for skin color dermatology and gave me some ideas on how I can best incorporate that into my future practice, balancing my medical and surgical dermatology interests. I am forever grateful for this award and to my mentor, Dr. Sotonye Imadojemu for this transformative opportunity.
Mentee: Alba Posligua, MD
Mentor: Daniel Eisen, MD
University of California Davis
Mentee: Krystina Quow, MD
Mentor: Ginette A. Okoye, MD
Howard University Medical Center
With the support of the Skin of Color Society Observership Grant, I had the opportunity to have an away elective at Howard University Department Dermatology. During my three-week rotation, I had the opportunity to work with the Howard residents along with attendings, including Dr. Ginette Okoye, Dr. Cheri Frey, Dr. Ellen Pritchett, and Dr. Maren Shaw. Given the lack of black female dermatologists at my home institution, having the opportunity to learn from four during this rotation provided guidance and mentorship prior to my transition to my post-residency career. I feel incredibly fortunate to have had this experience prior to the completion of my residency training.
This experience strengthened my ability to evaluate and treat diseases in skin of color. I was particularly grateful to learn about cosmetic dermatology in skin of color patients where I was able to observe the use of laser, chemical peels, platelet rich plasma, and injectables. I also improved my understanding of barriers to care which will ultimately allow me to serve as a better advocate and partner with my patients.
I was particularly impressed with the residents who welcomed me as one of their own and went above and beyond to make sure I felt included. My most memorable and rewarding patient encounters were the alopecia patients. Through my experience I now feel more confident in counseling my hair loss patients with regard long term course of their diagnosis and treatment options. Following the elective, I brought what I learned back to home institution and gave a well received grand rounds on hair loss topics. I have drawn from my experiences in my current practice and am excited to continue to grow my interests in skin of color dermatology.
Mentee: Sruveera Sathi, MS
Mentor: Vesna Petronic-Rosic, MD, Msc, MBA
Cook County Health Hospital
Mentee: Nicole Trepanowski, BS
Mentor: Rebecca Hartman, MD, MPH
Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Because of the generosity of the Skin of Color Society Observership Grant, I was able to develop a mentorship with Dr. Rebecca Hartman in the Department of Dermatology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. My career goals include becoming an academic dermatologist, working with underserved populations, and conducting research to investigate how minoritized individuals can be better served in the field of dermatology.
This Observership propelled me towards my career goals because Dr. Hartman and I worked on a research project investigating differences among Hispanic nationalities in skin cancer prevention practices using a large national dataset, which is currently under submission at a dermatology journal. Additionally, I was able to gain dermatology clinical experience by shadowing Dr. Hartman in clinic at the Jamaica Plain Veterans Hospital, which serves an underserved population with a high burden of skin cancer, and in a melanoma clinic at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. During our time together, Dr. Hartman and I also hosted an educational event at a local women’s shelter teaching women about skincare and basic skin conditions. These experiences would not have been possible without the support of the Skin of Color Society Observership Grant.
Both Black/African American and Hispanic/Latino individuals are underrepresented as physicians proportional to their population representation in the U.S. (Voorhees, et. al). In dermatology, only 4.2% of practicing dermatologists identify as Hispanic/Latino despite making up 17.8% of the population, and 3% of practicing dermatologists identify as African-American despite making up 13.3% of the population (Voorhees, et. al). As the daughter of a Hispanic immigrant and the first future physician in my family,
I am grateful to have been supported by the Skin of Color Society as I pursue a career in academic dermatology with a focus on melanoma and healthcare disparities. Participating in the Skin of Color Society Observership Program set me on the path towards achieving my goal of improving the field of dermatology for underrepresented individuals. This experience enabled me to develop a life-long mentor and gain valuable clinical and research experience which I will carry forward in my career.
The 2022 SOCS Observership Grants were made possible thanks to the support from UrbanSkin Rx, EltaMD, Inc., and SkinMedica/Allergan.
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
I am very thankful to have received the Skin of Color Society’s Observership Grant, as it really allowed me the opportunity to delve into skin of color topics and in particular diversity in dermatology research, which is a passion of mine. I sought to work with Dr. Harvey at the Hampton Roads Center for Dermatology and the Hampton University Skin of Color Research Institute to further explore my interests in skin of color research and disparities in medicine, particularly as it pertains to dermatology. This Observership has provided that opportunity to me, and so much more. Dr. Harvey is an excellent mentor. She really took time to meet and talk with me about my interests in dermatology and in life and she is always available to touch base and provide guidance and support about anything of interest, from dermatology topics to residency or career paths, which is truly invaluable. I have conducted research with Dr. Harvey, the Hampton University Skin of Color Research Institute and with the Skin of Color Society (SOCS), which has been an honor and incredible learning experience. We have worked on quite a few projects together, including survey and database studies and literature reviews, centered around increasing diversity in dermatology research. She has been a bridge in the field of dermatology and I have been able to attend multiple conferences with her, under her tutelage and had the privilege of meeting and interacting with numerous leaders in the field of dermatology. She is very giving of her time and open to discussing and providing support on approaching research topics, as well as guidance on posters, papers and on research interests that we are continuing to pursue and work on.
My experience with the SOCS has been fantastic overall and I am very appreciative to have been awarded the SOCS Observership Grant, as it provided the resources for me to be able to further explore my love for dermatology research and intertwine that interest with addressing health disparities and the need for supporting diversity within dermatology. Thank you to Dr. Harvey for all of her time and for welcoming me into spaces that would not have been possible without her. I have truly enjoyed and look forward to working with Dr. Harvey and having her as my mentor for hopefully many years to come, and continuing to work with the SOCS and all of its amazing efforts. I hope to be able to pay this forward in my career in dermatology to encourage and support others as I have been so privileged to have experienced.
Mentee: Elisabeth George, BA
Mentor: Susan Taylor, MD
Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania
I am incredibly grateful to have received the Skin of Color Observership Grant with Dr. Susan Taylor. This August, I was able to participate in the experience. I was able to frequently meet with Dr. Taylor to work on two projects. We recently submitted a review paper on the epidemiology, histopathology, and management of central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia to highlight articles published in the last decade. We also worked on a qualitative study of Diversity and Community Engagement dermatology residency positions. For this project, I conducted semi-structured interviews with key faculty members at institutions with these dermatology residency positions to identify the program’s vision, associated benefits, and challenges. The goal of this research project is to create a roadmap for other institutions that are interested in creating similar positions.
In addition, I was able to attend Grand Rounds at Penn Dermatology and participate in weekly didactic sessions tailored for medical students and residents. Dr. Taylor has been an outstanding mentor. She encouraged me to schedule meetings with other faculty members in the department, who graciously provided insights into their various career paths. She also hosted periodic meetings outside of the office to interact in a more personal setting. Her mentorship and advice on various aspects of my application for dermatology residency have been essential. I was also able to spend a day with her as she conducted clinical trial visits for patients with alopecia areata. This was an incredible learning opportunity as I aspire to lead clinical trials for inflammatory hair loss conditions over my career as a clinical dermatologist. – Elisabeth George, BS
Mentee: Nwanneka Okwundu
Mentor: Amy McMichael, MD
Wake Forest Baptist Health-Department of Dermatology
Mentee: Angel Pagan, BS
Mentor: Emma Guttman-Yassky, MD, PhD
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
Conducting research with Dr. Emma Guttman-Yassky at the Mount Sinai Laboratory of Inflammatory Skin Diseases and Department of Dermatology, has propelled my research knowledge and skillset. This experience strengthened my career goals of becoming an academic dermatologist, with a special focus on inflammatory skin diseases research. The program has provided opportunities to network with skin of color experts such as Dr. Cula Svidzinski, Director of the Mount Sinai Skin of Color Center, whom I will continue to collaborate with as I extend my stay as research fellow for the entire year. During this month, I learned about and contributed to the development and funding application process for a Skin of Color Research Fellowship Program. The latter will allow a dermatology resident scientist to conduct research in inflammatory skin diseases in patients with skin of color. I was mentored by Dr. Dautriche-Svidzinski and Dr. Ester Del Duca during the process and learned about other research projects being conducted at our department, including the molecular mapping of patients with skin of color, such as African and African American, suffering from atopic dermatitis. Thanks to this opportunity provided by the Skin of Color Society, I am highly motivated to continue working in projects that benefit patients with skin of color suffering from inflammatory skin diseases such as eczema and psoriasis, and autoimmune diseases such as alopecia areata.
Dr. Guttman-Yassky, has provided outstanding mentorship by guiding our research ideas and providing interesting research projects. Under her mentorship, I conducted a research study comparing the clinical response of pediatric patients treated with dupilumab and the role of age, race, and ethnicity. She has also provided opportunities to present my research at the Pediatric Dermatology Research Alliance Meeting and the 4th Inflammatory Skin Diseases Summit. During this process, I also learned about medical chart reviews and statistical analyses alongside dermatology residents. I have also learned about the clinical signs of atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, and alopecia areata, and unique treatment challenges in this patient population, such as increased skin lichenification and hyperpigmentation. The Skin of Color Society’s Observership Program provided unique learning opportunities, effective mentorship to conduct research, and increased my knowledge about inflammatory skin diseases in patients with skin of color. – Angel Pagan, BS
Mentee: Matthew Pimentel, MD
Mentor: Ginette Okoye, MD
I am very thankful to have been awarded a SOCS Observership Grant that supported a clinical rotation at Howard University with my mentor Dr. Ginette Okoye and her team, which included Drs. Cheri Frey, Maren Shaw, and Nikki Pritchett. I was connected to Dr. Okoye through Dr. Temitayo Ogunleye from the University of Pennsylvania in 2021. I sought to complete a rotation at Howard to increase my exposure to patients with darker skin types and to learn how to manage patients with hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) from an expert in the field. Each week during my rotation, I spent 3.5 days in clinic, 1 full day in didactics with a half day of administrative time.
My rotation at Howard was truly an immersive experience in caring for patients with SOC. Indeed, during my rotation greater than 95% of patients that I evaluated had Fitzpatrick skin types IV-VI. I gained additional experience evaluating and managing pigmentary disorders, hair loss, acne vulgaris, among others. Importantly, I also enhanced my competency to obtain a history, and discuss management in a culturally sensitive manner. For example, when discussing tools to improve post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation we discussed “skin brightening agents” rather than using terms such as “bleaching creams.” These nuances in language are important to build rapport, and communicate clearly with patients. With regards to hidradenitis suppurativa, I learned to approach HS management based on the subtype of disease (e.g., follicular-type vs gluteal type, etc.). I also observed the use of hair removal to treat HS. Other procedures that I observed were PRP for hair loss, and chemical peels for acne and post inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
Training at Howard was very special and memorable. I thoroughly enjoyed the environment where a majority of the residents, and all of the attendings and staff, come from UIM backgrounds. This environment was welcoming, inclusive, supportive, and with a familiarity that is often challenging to find in medicine. I am grateful to have been connected to this team of trainees and dermatologists all committed to caring for patients with SOC and increasing diversity in dermatology.
Overall, my experience at Howard was outstanding. I am thankful to SOCS for the time and resources invested in me to foster and support this mentorship and training experience. I also appreciate the administrative staff for helping to organize the rotation, the Howard support staff who helped me in clinic, and the residents and faculty for welcoming me and allowing me to participate in the team. I look forward to using my experience to better care for patients with SOC and HS, and to “pay it forward” to future trainees. – Matthew Pimentel, MD
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
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. – Autumn Saizan, BS
Mentee: Pearl Ugwu-Dike, BS
Mentor: Michi Shinohara, MD
University of Washington
Mentee: Brittany Feaster, MHS
Mentor: Amy McMichael, MD
Wake Forest School of Medicine
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. – Brittany Feaster, MHS
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.