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The Hilltop


Medical students discuss skin care importance with community

Howard University School of Medicine, in part through Skin Scholars, teamed up with skincare companies to promote dermatology awareness and mentorship.

Students interact with the table about skin diseases. (Sariah Adams/The Hilltop)

The Howard University School of Medicine partnered with several skincare companies last week to raise awareness about dermatology’s importance and encourage student interest in the field.

Students were welcomed as they walked upstairs of the Blackburn ballroom, with table after table introducing students to the various skin and hair conditions that are common within the Black community.  

Some of the tips given, like those from Ayana Crawl-Bey, a second-year medical student, emphasized wearing sunscreen every day to protect against not only the sun’s rays but also from the UV rays that come from constantly looking at your phone or computer screen all day.

The informational event occurred in part through the work of Skin Scholars.     

Shanae Henry and Ugonna Nwannunu, both rising third-year medical students and Howard University alumni, launched Skin Scholars at Howard’s Medical School. Their initiative aims to raise awareness of skin and hair conditions prevalent in communities of color, assist in devising personalized, gentle skincare routines, and offer insights into the journey toward medical school and dermatology. 

According to Henry, “despite Black people comprising 13 percent of the United States population, only 3 percent of dermatologists in the country are Black.”

As dermatology remains relatively underexplored and represented, especially for communities of color, according to the National Library of Medicine, initiatives like Skin Scholars aim to increase representation through exposure and mentorship and offer a pathway to contribute to a more inclusive landscape. 

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Howard is home to the only HBCU dermatology department in the nation where the majority of the skin cancer patients are non-Hispanic white patients

“Even very common conditions often go underdiagnosed or misdiagnosed when it comes to, not just Black skin, but skin of color in general,” Nwannunu said. “That’s one of the most prevalent issues and that honestly relates to just about everything else we could talk about.”

Henry and Nwannunu embarked on a two-year journey to bring Skin Scholars to fruition. They secured sponsorships from Vituity Inc. as the event sponsor and brands such as CeraVe, La Roche Posay, Vaseline, Neutrogena, Aveeno, Elta MD, Byoma, and Zen in a Jar – all brands that dermatologists recommend using for skin care.   

Information about Atopic Dermatitis. (Sariah Adams/The Hilltop)
Emmanuel Ike, a second-year medical student talking to a student about Atopic Dermatitis, also known as Eczema. (Sariah Adams/The Hilltop)

The event featured seven stations, each providing insights into effective skincare routines and various skin and hair conditions from a dermatologist’s perspective. Interactive elements at each station, such as painted Black faces to show what certain skin conditions look like on Black skin, to the poster boards with the different condition symptoms, helped students engage in learning how to identify these conditions and understand the methods dermatologists use for examination.

Emmanuel Ike, a second-year medical student, answered students’ questions regarding Eczema, a skin condition causing itchy patches of the skin, and advised on methods to prevent dryness of the skin. 

“I believe one of the main issues is just education as well,” Ike said. “I feel like usually, in the medical system at large, we’re not introduced to dermatologists until there is an issue, and so many people might not know what a dermatologist is.” 

Post-it notes from attendees shared what they learned from the event or gave skin care tips to other students. (Sariah Adams/The Hilltop)

Feedback from attendees like Zoie James, a junior health science major, and Danya Hood, a sophomore psychology major from Hampton, Virginia, underscored what they said was the event’s success in imparting valuable knowledge and fostering interest in skincare, with an emphasis on preventive measures against skin cancer.

“I gained a lot of knowledge in the past 10 minutes that I was here. It was very informative, I had a good time,” James said. 

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Hood echoed those sentiments and added how important an event like this is as she gets more into skincare for preventative purposes. 

“I’ve been really getting into skincare these days because I don’t want any skin cancer when I’m older,” Hood said.  “So I’ve really been paying attention to all the tips and tricks they’ve  given me and they’re very helpful.” 

Copy edited by Alana Matthew


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