Observership Experiences

Experiences of some of our

SOCS Observership Grant Recipients

Mentee: Melissa Alfredo, MD
Mentor: Cheri Frey, MD, FAAD

Howard University

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
A. Shadi Kourosh, MD, FAAD
Massachusetts General Hospital

Mentee: Pauline Flaum-Dunoyer
Mentor: Andrew F. Alexis, MD, MPH

Weill Cornell Medicine

Mentee Pauline Flaum-Dunoyer with mentor Dr. Andrew Alexis at Weill Cornell Medicine, 2022 Observership Award

To Be Welcomed is to Thrive

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. – Pauline Flaum-Dunoyer

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

Mentee: Jennifer Laborada, BS
Mentor: Mark Lebwohl, MD

Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

Mentee: Jazmin Newton
Mentor: Susan Taylor, MD
Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania

Mentee: Aderonke Obayami, MD, MPH
Mentor: Elyse Love, MD

Glam Derm

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

Mentee Ogechukwu Opaigbeogu, BS
with mentor Dr. Valerie Callender, 2022 Observership Award

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

Mentee Deborah Paul, MD
with mentor Dr. Sotonye Imadojemu, 2022 Observership Award

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. – Deborah Paul, MD

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

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

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

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

Mentee Elisabeth George, BA with mentor Dr. Susan Taylor at the Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania,  2021 Observership Award

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

Mentee Angel Pagan, BS with mentor Dr. Emma Guttman-Yassky at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, 2021 Observership Award

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
Howard University

Mentee Matthew Pimentel, MD with mentor Dr. Ginette Okoye at Howard University, 2021 Observership Award

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

Mentee Autumn Saizan, BS with mentor Dr. Nada Elbuluk at 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. – Autumn Saizan, BS

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 Brittany Feaster, MHS with mentor Dr. Amy McMichael at the 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. – 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.