Addressing Racism and Implicit Bias in Medicine

Dark skin is significantly underrepresented in medical literature and curricula, comprising an average of just 4.5% of images in medical textbooks. In response, clinicians of all licensures and specialties are often insufficiently trained to recognize disease patterns in patients of color. To confront this issue, Project IMPACT was created to raise awareness and adoption of educational and clinical resources and solutions that strengthen clinicians’ ability to accurately diagnose disease in black and brown skin and improve health equity.

Dark skin is significantly underrepresented in medical literature and curricula, comprising an average of just 4.5% of images in medical textbooks. In response, clinicians of all licensures and specialties are often insufficiently trained to recognize disease patterns in patients of color. To confront this issue, Project IMPACT was created to raise awareness and adoption of educational and clinical resources and solutions that strengthen clinicians’ ability to accurately diagnose disease in black and brown skin and improve health equity.

VisualDx developed Project IMPACT (Improving Medicine’s Power to Address Care and Treatment) with help from thought leaders on skin of color and diagnostic accuracy from renowned organizations such as the Skin of Color Society(SOCS) and New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) Group.

“Dermatologic and systemic diseases present with varying shades of color, erythema, and patterns in patients of color with melanin-rich skin," said Lynn McKinley-Grant, MD, FAAD, board-certified dermatologist, SOCS President, Associate Professor, Department of Dermatology, Howard University College of Medicine and Former Vice-Chair for Diversity and Community Engagement at Duke University College of Medicine, Department of Dermatology. "The Skin of Color Society (SOCS) has been working to advance healthcare equity, education, research and mentoring since our founding in 2004. We now are honored to collaborate and share the expertise of our members with VisualDx and NEJM Group on this vitally important initiative."

For more than twenty years, VisualDx has worked with board-certified physicians across the globe to collect hundreds of thousands of professional medical images displaying the full spectrum of disease presentations across skin types. As a result, greater than 30% of images in its platform represent dark skin types. Studies also indicate that clinicians leveraging VisualDx at the point of care can improve diagnostic accuracy as well as patient education and engagement, particularly for traditionally marginalized groups.

“Lack of sufficient medical education on darker skin has had direct implications on health disparities in patients of color,” said Nada Elbuluk, MD, MSc, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist and Director of Clinical Impact at VisualDx. “Project IMPACT was created with the understanding that a far-reaching, collaborative effort is needed to eliminate systemic racism in healthcare. I’m honored to lead this charge and help build a global community dedicated to transforming medicine for the good of all patients.”

Students, educators, clinicians, and patients working toward greater health equity are encouraged to take the pledge to make an impact and to share their stories on social media using the hashtag #ProjectIMPACT.