The Skin of Color Society Approaches its 20th Anniversary with Groundbreaking Initiatives Underway to Change the Dermatology Landscape for People of Color

June 28, 2023
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The Skin of Color Society Approaches its 20th Anniversary with Groundbreaking Initiatives Underway to Change the Dermatology Landscape for People of Color-banner-image

We were thrilled to recently release this major news announcement on the PR Newswire, sharing highlights from the Skin of Color Society’s most active and innovative year in its history:

As the world’s leading professional organization dedicated to skin of color dermatology, the Skin of Color Society (SOCS) is approaching its 20th anniversary milestone with several signature programs and groundbreaking initiatives underway that help bring greater diversity to dermatology, reduce healthcare disparities, advance much-needed research, expand training and mentorship opportunities for dermatologists, and amplify patient education.

Founded in 2004 by dermatology leader Susan C. Taylor, MD, FAAD, SOCS is flourishing with unprecedented growth and expansion in recent times, making seminal contributions to the field of dermatology. Highlights from its most active and innovative year in history include:

Leading the way with skin of color patient and dermatology educational videos

Today, SOCS releases a wide-ranging series of educational videos generated through its recent 6th Annual SOCS Media Day, including the “MelanatED” series of eight short-form educational videos and ten SOCS Identity Videos. Covering key topics ranging from cultural competency, hair loss, inflammatory diseases, and sunscreen in skin of color to patient safety, the importance of early detection, how to find “Dr. Right” and much more, this powerful collection sheds lights on issues of special importance and interest to patients of color and the physicians who care for them.

These insightful videos feature nationally and globally recognized SOCS leaders,  including: Drs. Susan C. Taylor, Andrew F. Alexis, Valerie M. Harvey, Candrice R. Heath, Janiene Luke, Corey L. Hartman, Shawn Kwatra, and Nkem Ugonabo.

This initiative was made possible thanks to the support of: Janssen/Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble, Senté, Bristol Myers Squibb, Arcutis Biotherapeutics and Dove.

Advancing Diversity in Dermatology Clinical Trials                                                                                              

Through an unprecedented initiative led by then-President Valerie Harvey, MD, MPH, FAAD, SOCS presented the Inaugural Summit, Meeting the Challenge: Diversity in Dermatology Clinical Trials, in June 2022. This gathering brought together key stakeholders across numerous disciplines and sectors, leading to several innovations. The Summit was supported in part by AbbVie and Janssen/Johnson & Johnson. Key outcomes from this meeting include:

  • A first-ever collaboration with the National Medical Association Dermatology Section, offering a Diversity in Clinical Trials Mentorship Program to tomorrow’s researchers, which is now in progress. The program is made possible thanks to support from Janssen/Johnson & Johnson;
  • Two manuscripts in peer-reviewed journals, including one published article (Cobb CBC, Heath CR, Byrd AS, et al. The Skin of Color Society’s Meeting the Challenge Summit, 2022: Diversity in Dermatology Clinical Trials Proceedings. JAMA Dermatol. Published online May 24, 2023. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2023.1285), and another pending publication in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology;
  • The creation of a SOCS working group to develop a comprehensive, evidence-based review focusing on the use and misuse of the current scales used to measure skin tones;
  • The development of the 2nd Annual Meeting the Challenge Summit: Redefining Population Descriptors in Dermatology Research Studies, which will be dedicated to addressing language and classification of terms to be used in clinical trials, scheduled for December 2023.

Supporting Much-Needed Research in Skin of Color Dermatology

SOCS is working within the field along with collaborative partners to address the dire need for more research into various dermatologic diseases that disproportionately impact patients of color through a variety of initiatives, including:

The SOCS Foundation Institutional Research Fellowship (IRF) Program supports critical research into dermatologic diseases in skin of color and provides valuable opportunities for physicians of color, who are disproportionately underrepresented in dermatology and medicine. SOCS is working to increase the number of physicians from diverse backgrounds who can provide culturally competent care to these often-underserved communities. The IRF program provides outstanding opportunities for underrepresented minority (URM) physicians to train for and assume leadership roles in clinical care, public policy, health services research and biomedical research. Applications are currently being accepted until August 1, 2023.

2023 SOCS Research, Career Development and Innovations Award Programs

Several yearly SOCS awards were presented at the recent 19th Annual SOCS Scientific Symposium, held on March 16, 2023, in conjunction with the American Academy of Dermatology’s Annual Meeting, including:

The SOCS Dermatology Research Award provides grants to assist early career dermatologists and scientists in furthering their academic careers and promoting the development of innovative ideas in clinical and translational research. This year’s awards were supported by Bristol Myers Squibb, L’Oréal and Pfizer. 2023 Research Awardees include:

  • Hyejin Leah Chung, MD, for Fractional CO2 Laser versus Fractional Radiofrequency Microneedling for Hidradenitis Suppurativa-Related Atrophic Scars: A Randomized Controlled Rater-Blinded Study;
  • Jennifer Fernandez, MD, RD, for Teledermatology in Kenya: An Assessment of Provider Preferences
  • Nazgol Sadat Haddadi, MD, MPH for The role of Type I IFNs on Keratinocyte’s response to Ultraviolet Light B in Photosensitive Skin Diseases;
  • Courtney Johnson, MD, PhD, for Single Cell Transcriptomic View of Cancer-Associated Fibroblasts in Early-Stage Mycosis Fungoides;
  • Tasneem Mohammad, MD, for Exploring the clinical, spectroscopic, histologic, and immunohistochemical features of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation using disease specific validated in-vivo models with comparison to ultraviolet b induced skin pigmentation.

SOCS Career Development Awards provide grants to investigators to fund basic, translational, or clinical research related to inflammatory disorders in skin of color. 2023 Awardees include:

  • Crystal Aguh, MD, for Establishing A Transcriptomic Model for CCCA Diagnosis and Severity;
  • Carmelo Carmona-Rivera, PhD, for Dysregulation of NETs modulates inflammation, autoimmune features and end-organ damage in Hidradenitis suppurativa;
  • Candrice Heath, MD, for Elucidating Scarring Alopecia to Extend Follicular Life in Black children and adolescents (ESCAPE Study).                                                            

The 2023 SOCS Career Development Awards were supported by Bristol Myers Squibb, Pfizer and L’Oréal.

The SOCS Early Career Innovations Award provides grants to support new ideas that have potential to positively disrupt the practice of dermatology and dermatologic care. 2023 recipients are Favour A. Akinjiyan, BSc, MD/PhD Candidate, for Using Artificial Intelligence and Short Wave Infrared Imaging to Predict Acne and Vartan Pahalyants, MD, MBA, for DermDiscovery: Leveraging Technology and Augmented Reality to Increase Diversity in Dermatology.  This award program was established thanks to the vision and generosity of SOCS member Dr. Dhaval Bhanusali.

Bringing “Where Science, Innovation & Inclusion Meet on the Global Stage” to the 25th World Congress of Dermatology (WCD)

For the first time in the Society’s history, SOCS will present a Scientific Session at WCD in Singapore on July 3. The program includes presentations by leading dermatologic experts from Australia, India, South Africa and the United States. Esteemed invited speakers will present on a variety of dermatologic conditions and issues affecting skin of color patients, including: facial pigmentation, lichen planopilaris, cutaneous tuberculosis, inflammatory disorders, and cultural beauty around the world. This meeting is supported by an educational grant from Pfizer.

Mentoring the next generation of dermatologists

The SOCS Observership Program provides grants to medical students, dermatology residents, and junior faculty to enable an in-person rotation with a SOCS mentor, allowing them to acquire additional academic or research skills that will further their careers as leaders in dermatology. Eleven SOCS Observership Grants were awarded in 2023. The SOCS Observership Program is made possible thanks to funding from Urban SkinRx, EltaMD and L’Oreal.

The SOCS Mentorship Program has been growing dramatically in recent years. In 2023, 40 matches pairing SOCS mentors with SOCS mentees were made. Through this highly beneficial program, medical students, residents and junior faculty can connect with an approved SOCS mentor for up to one year. In addition to one-on-one mentoring relationships, group mentoring sessions by video conferencing were instituted in 2022. Applications for the 2024-2025 cycle will open up in August 2023.

Presenting the latest skin of color research

A signature program for SOCS and the skin of color dermatology community at-large, the 19th Annual SOCS Scientific Symposium continued its tradition of showcasing the latest skin of color dermatology research and insights from emerging and highly respected experts and researchers from around the US and the world. This year’s Symposium in March featured esteemed experts, researchers, and future dermatology leaders who shared their insights through invited speaker presentations, moderated panels, oral abstracts and iPosters. A record number of abstracts were submitted, including 179 submissions and 139 acceptances. Presenters covered pertinent topics in skin of color dermatology ranging from JAK inhibitors, skin cancer, and CCCA to health disparities, dismantling racism and more.  Recordings from this outstanding program can be accessed through the SOCS Dermatology E-Learning + Equity Platform (DEEP), for free as a SOCS member benefit, and to the public for a fee. The iPoster gallery from the 2023 Symposium can be viewed here. 

This program was supported by AbbVie, Janssen/Johnson & Johnson, and Sanofi-Regeneron (Champion Level);  Bristol Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly and Company, Incyte Dermatology, Unilever/Dove/Vaseline (Ally Level); Arcutis Biotherapeutics (Partner Level); Avita Medical, Beiersdorf, Dermavant Sciences, Evolus, Ortho Dermatologics, Senté, Strata Skin Sciences and UCB (Friend Level); EltaMD, Google Health, HairStim, L’Oréal, Pfizer, and SkinCeuticals (Special Recognition).

The 20th Annual SOCS Scientific Symposium will take place on March 7, 2024 in conjunction with the 2024 AAD Annual Meeting in San Diego.

“As we reach our 20th anniversary, we are indebted to many skin of color dermatology pioneers, whose contributions led to tremendous advances in the field. As we face a very promising future, we are thankful for and strengthened by many SOCS leaders, members, supporters and collaborators who are helping us continue our work toward achieving true diversity, equity and inclusion in dermatology,” comments Dr. Andrew F. Alexis, MD, MPH, FAAD, SOCS President.

About the Skin of Color Society

The Skin of Color Society (SOCS) is an international professional dermatologic organization dedicated to achieving health equity and excellence in patient care through research, education, mentorship and advocacy. SOCS is committed to increasing diversity and inclusion in dermatology to advance patient care. Established in 2004 by Susan C. Taylor, MD, SOCS includes members from more than 30 countries around the world. Learn more: