An Interview With Impact Leader Henry Lim, MD

We’re shining the ProjectIMPACT Spotlight on Henry Lim, MD, an individual who is making a positive impact in healthcare by reducing racial bias in medicine. Dr. Lim is interviewed by Afua Ofori-Darko, a second-year medical student at Case Western Reserve University and VisualDx Student Advisory Board member.

Could you kindly share with us an overview of your current role and highlight some of the aspects that you find most rewarding?

Dr. Lim: I am the former chair of dermatology at Henry Ford. I came to Henry Ford in 1997 and was a chair for 20 years. I became president of the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) in 2017 and I rotated off as the department chair at that time to focus my efforts on my role at the AAD. Right now, I see patients, work with residents, do clinical research on photobiology, and have some administrative responsibilities at Henry Ford. Additionally, this past July I began my presidency of the International League of Dermatological Societies, which is a global organization consisting of over 200 member societies.

Your tenure as President of the American Academy of Dermatology saw significant efforts in promoting Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in the field. Can you reflect on the evolution of dermatology in this regard since 2017 and offer insights into what further steps are needed to enhance DEI initiatives?

Dr. Lim: I think that this is one of the most gratifying changes that I have seen in the AAD. When I started as the President in 2017, in my inauguration address during the plenary session, among the priorities that I said I wanted to do was to increase the diversity in dermatology so that the face of dermatology would reflect the face of our patients. It should be noted that even before this, there have been some DEI activities, including the Skin of Color Society, which has been around for quite some time, and some textbooks on skin of color. Dr. Bruce Thiers gave a plenary session lecture about 2 years before I did on this particular topic.

In order for DEI efforts to be successful, I knew I needed to get other stakeholders to be involved, educated, and embracing the idea. I started with a conference summit with many key stakeholders including leaders at the AAD, the Association of Professors of Dermatology (APD), and the Society of Investigative Dermatology (SID). Since then, DEI is an idea that has been embraced by many organized dermatological societies. Many academic departments now have DEI committees and grand rounds.

The AAD has a Diversity and Inclusion Symposium that has taken place for the past 2 years and is going to go on again at the 2024 conference. It’s evident things are moving along in terms of awareness and effort. All of this is gratifying to see, but clearly, like any effort, we need to make sure that the effort will continue to go on.

We need to ensure that DEI activities continue to go on and make sure that the dermatology community continues to be aware, embrace the idea, and promote a culture change within the community.

Could you share the sources of inspiration that drive your work and passions?

Dr. Lim: I’m very fortunate that I have enjoyed everything I’ve done in my career. Even though I’m quite busy, it is very enjoyable, because not only do I continue to see patients with very complex dermatological conditions, I continue to be engaged in clinical research, work with my colleagues in the dermatology community, and train fellows and younger faculty members.

Working with people from different backgrounds and working to advance the field of dermatology has been very gratifying, and it’s why I wake up every morning.

For students, residents, and physicians/attendings interested in addressing healthcare
disparities, what valuable advice would you offer them?

Dr. Lim: For all levels of trainees/staff, I would recommend reaching out to people who have done this work before. For the younger students or junior faculty, I suggest finding a mentor who can help them understand the issue(s) at hand, but also help them to connect to the community.

Creating a network of people who are interested in the same issue(s) can create camaraderie and a support group that allows you to learn from each other.

Additionally, when we talk about DEI, it is more of a culture change than individual actions that need to be taken. We need to continue to form allyship in the dermatology community, as it is not possible to have every single person working on this issue be an underrepresented minority in medicine (URiM). We have to ensure that the entire community is willing to embrace this idea, and with allyship, we can ensure more people are engaged in this effort.

What concrete commitments can you make to contribute to the enhancement of health

Dr. Lim: I commit to continuing the activities that I have been doing to support health equity. For example, faculty members in my department have been hosting URiM students who are interested in dermatology in their homes, and I always try to show up and support this effort. Specifically at the International League of Dermatological Societies, we are working to ensure that women are represented in leadership, African nations have at least one board member position, and increase the number of DEI speakers at our events such as the World Congress of Dermatology.

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