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August 21, 2019

Meeting the Unique Dermatologic Needs of Black Patients

Author Affiliations
  • 1Perelman School of Medicine, Department of Dermatology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
JAMA Dermatol. 2019;155(10):1109-1110. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2019.1963

As a pioneer in the field of skin of color, I have been dismayed that black patients remain largely overlooked in dermatology education, research, and publications despite comprising 14.3% of the US population.1 Likewise, the number of blacks in the dermatology workforce remains abysmal, which has important implications for patient care. These statements also apply to Latino patients and other patients of color, including patients of other nonwhite races and ethnicities. In this issue of JAMA Dermatology, Gorbatenko-Roth and colleagues2 address an important and infrequently studied area in dermatology: the dermatologic experience and care of black patients. They used 4 focus groups involving 19 black patients to (1) evaluate black patients’ perceptions of the care that they receive from dermatologists, (2) identify factors most important in defining black patients’ overall experience, and (3) examine the importance of physician-patient race concordance. I applaud the authors for their focus and interest in understanding the experience of black dermatology patients. Because a small percentage of dermatologic education is dedicated to black patients, knowledge gaps exist, and this lack of education and familiarity on the part of dermatologists undoubtedly negatively affects the dermatologic experience of these patients.3,4 Black patients continue to present to me, commenting that race-discordant dermatologists do not have specific knowledge of their skin and hair or hair care regimens, nor do these dermatologists offer individualized treatments for their disorders. The study by Gorbatenko-Roth and colleagues2 confirms the comments and perceptions expressed by my patients and will hopefully serve as a springboard for the specialty of dermatology to eliminate the knowledge gaps, acquire cultural competence, and improve all aspects of care for black patients.

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