Karan Lal, DO, MS, FAAD: Achieving Racial Equality in Dermatology Care


Dr. Lal speaks to deficiencies in dermatology education as they relate to skin of color, and how more inclusive language and media help dermatologists improve patient care.

In the past decade, the average American has witnessed an increase in media that incorporates skin of color in everything from television to skin care advertisements.

Those in the dermatology field such as Karan Lal, DO, MS, FAAD, Schweiger Dermatology Group and member of The Society for Pediatric Dermatology , have seen similar incremental changes in skin of color research.

Previous dermatology research and resources have often failed to properly acknowledge skin of color, but recent trends suggest a belated but welcomed change in these patterns.

“I think the biggest thing that's happened in our field is the development and the creation of textbooks now that are dedicated to skin of color,” Lal said. “A big deficiency of dermatology education has been that a lot of the textbooks that we have (feature) patients with white skin and white photographs, and patients who are skin of color, black, brown, whatever the color may be, aren’t well represented in these textbooks. So, what does that lead to ? It leads to misdiagnosis, it leads to more biopsies, it leads to poor patient outcomes compared to white patient population.”

In addition to the trend of more skin of color diagnoses in textbooks, Lal also noted that various board exams have begun implementing skin of color photos that incentivizes dermatologists to learn more about different diseases and skin of color.

Lal is involved in a myriad of diversity programs including The Future Leaders Network for the American Society of Dermatologic Surgery. The program helps to create curriculum for fellows, residents, and program directors who are tasked with selecting fellow on diversity and equity inclusion within the field of dermatology.

As a double-board certified dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon, Lal has remained one of the few doctors in the United States with all 3 credentials. This has resulted in him being a frequent referral for patients with a variety of skin conditions, some of which had not been properly diagnosed by previous dermatologists due to a lack of awareness on how these conditions present in skin of color.

Naturally, the issue of inequality is multifactorial. Currently, dermatology is the second least diverse specialty in all of medicine, and while tasks forces have been established within residency programs and hospitals that are based on diversity, equity, and inclusion of all ethnic backgrounds, skin colors, and sexualities, there is a continued need to evolve past the language and thought process that has limited dermatological research.

“Medicine has changed dramatically in 30 years, but it's dramatically changed in a humanistic perspective just in the past 5, and so I think it's really catching up those people that need to get with the times and challenge those ideas,” Lal said. “So it's really about changing the people that were with and opening up our circles, and keeping your eyes open, and going with the times.”

To hear more from Dr. Lal's wide-ranging interview on skin of color, watch the video above.

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