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NPR: Diagnostic Gaps: Skin Comes In Many Shades And So Do Rashes

jun17_measles_29607.jpgDeena Prichep, NPR (NOVEMBER 4, 2019)

Medical school classes rely on a lot of pattern recognition — especially when it comes to dermatology, explains Dr. Art Papier, an associate professor of dermatology at the University of Rochester Medical Center, in New York. "You see picture after picture, to encode them into your brain," he says.

"You take these residents — they look at thousands of cases. And you're training them to see the skin, classify what they see."

In 2006, Papier and his colleague, Dr. Tobechi Ebede, published an analysis of major textbooks and other educational and training resources in dermatology and found photographs of darker skin to be sparse. Until recently, Papier says, "examples in people of color were limited to diseases that were more common in people of color."

But rashes, just as one example, are problems for people of all colors, and they don't always look red on dark skin. They can look kind of purple or may barely show up at all. And when doctors haven't seen examples on darker skin, they may not be able to give an accurate diagnosis.

Read the full article and listen to the version that played on Morning Edition here.

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