Innovating Dermatology Education to Enhance Dermatologic Care for All Skin Tones
A recent study discussed in MDedge underscores a critical issue in dermatology: the disparity in diagnostic accuracy across different skin tones, which has been a longstanding concern in our field. The utilization of deep learning systems (DLS) to improve diagnostic accuracy is promising, particularly noting the significant increase in correct diagnoses among both dermatologists and primary care physicians (PCPs) when DLS support is provided. This advancement is a step in the right direction, demonstrating the potential of AI in enhancing our diagnostic capabilities.
Shining a Light on Skin Tone Disparities
However, the fact that diseases in dark skin were diagnosed less accurately even with AI support highlights a persistent challenge. It underscores the necessity for more inclusive training and education that specifically addresses the diagnosis of skin diseases in patients with darker skin tones. The study also reveals a concerning trend towards the underdiagnosis or misdiagnosis of skin conditions in darker-skinned individuals, further emphasizing the need for systemic changes in our approach to dermatological education and practice.
The findings that both dermatologists and PCPs report insufficient training in diagnosing skin conditions in non-white patients and the variance in referral rates for biopsy based on skin color are alarming. These aspects call for immediate action to revise curricula and clinical training protocols to ensure all healthcare professionals are equally proficient in treating patients of all skin tones.
Equipping Future Dermatologists for Diversity
While AI and DLS offer significant benefits in improving diagnostic accuracy, this study highlights the importance of addressing the underlying biases and gaps in dermatological education and training, i.e., The Full Spectrum of Dermatology Atlas from the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, JDD. This as an opportunity to advocate for and implement more comprehensive training programs that include a broader spectrum of skin conditions across all skin types. This is essential not only for improving patient care but also for ensuring equity in healthcare outcomes across diverse patient populations. In light of this, our program, CoreMedSource Dermatology Core Curriculum, takes a proactive stance on this issue by discussing different skin tones throughout our curriculum and incorporating a dedicated module, “Disparities in Dermatology.” This module is designed to educate and equip future dermatologists with the knowledge and skills necessary to accurately diagnose and treat skin diseases, considering not only the diversity of skin tones but also other factors contributing to disparities in dermatology. By doing so, it aims to address and reduce the disparities highlighted by this study, promoting equitable care for all patients.