We are always delighted when we see evidence that the field of skin of color dermatology is blossoming and growing! So, as we commemorate the 15th anniversary of the Skin of Color Society (SOCS), as well as the 20th anniversary of the Skin of Color Center at Mount. Sinai-St. Luke’s in NYC, we now have yet another cause for celebration over the news that a skin of color dermatology clinic has recently been established at the University of California—San Francisco… and it’s headed up by SOCS member Jenna Lester, MD.
Dr. Lester is a young dermatologist with great vision, a strong sense of purpose and a true passion for helping others. She comes from a family of African American women who have dedicated their lives to medicine: Her grandmother, Ruby Brangman, became a nurse practitioner during the 1970s— one of the first black women in her profession in New York State. A generation later, Dr. Lester’s mother, Sharon Brangman, MD, became a doctor of geriatric medicine. Inspired by these role models, Dr. Lester pursued her own path in dermatology, after completing her undergraduate education at Harvard University, followed by her medical degree from Brown University.
Now, under Dr. Lester’s leadership, the UCSF Skin of Color Clinic is mission-driven to address disparities in health care by focusing on meeting the unique dermatologic needs of under served patients of color. The goal is to provide a comfortable place where individuals with skin of color can be treated by a dermatologist who fully understands how to recognize and treat their conditions with medical expertise and cultural sensitivity. One day, she hopes to expand the clinic to educate and train other dermatologists about how to treat patients of color and conduct further research into skin of color issues.
She joins many colleagues in the field with the expressed hope that someday soon, medical students and dermatologists-in-training will be educated about treating skin of color as a “fully integrated part of the dermatology curriculum, including visual examples of dermatologic conditions in educational materials shown side-by-side with other skin types to illustrate the different visual manifestations of various conditions in patients of color, rather than these examples being available only in a separate textbook.”
As a general dermatologist, Dr. Lester “sees it all” in her practice and treats a wide range of medical and cosmetic issues in patients of color. She does a lot of corrective work to address problems and complications that were caused by providers lacking in skin of color dermatology expertise, who did not properly diagnose and/or know how to safely treat a dermatologic condition with the special considerations required in skin of color. On the patient side, she finds that there is a great amount of misinformation and many misconceptions, spawned largely by social media influencers on YouTube and other platforms, who promote “do-it-yourself” practices for hair care and skin care that can actually create serious problems for individuals with darker skin types. In her words, “I really want to help people avoid the pitfalls and problems that happen when they try to take matters into their own hands or fall prey to getting hair or skin treatments by unqualified providers who can do a lot of damage. I’m very interested in changing this through greater awareness and education.”
Dr. Lester is also excited about finding new applications for existing modalities to help people of color, and “dreaming big” to find fresh solutions to the unique problems affecting patients of color.
Congratulations to Dr. Lester; it will be exciting to watch and track the progress and evolution of the UCSF Skin of Color Clinic!
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