The event was moderated by Lee Thomas, an Emmy Award-winning TV broadcaster and author of Turning White, a memoir about the physical and mental battle he wages with vitiligo. But Thomas wasn’t just an emcee; he shared his a very personal and inspirational journey with the very visible and often misunderstood skin disorder.
Thomas began to notice white spots on his scalp at the age of 25, just as he landed his dream job as an entertainment reporter for ABC TV's flagship in New York. He spoke about the emotional toll the disease took as it progressed and how he eventually began to recognize that he could help others by sharing his story.
“Support with education equals hope—which is what the Skin of Color Society is all about,” Thomas said in his opening remarks.
His candor set the tone for remarks by Dr. Seemal R. Desai, who is currently president of SOCS. Dr. Desai’s journey into dermatology was personal too; his brother was diagnosed with vitiligo at 8 years old. His brother’s condition and experience shaped what Dr. Desai wants to provide to his patients: healing and hope.
“I want people to leave my office optimistic,” he said.
Dr. Desai turned the microphone over to Dr. Susan C. Taylor, who addressed the psycho-social effects of, and treatment options for, hyperpigmentation issues, such as melasma.
Dr. Taylor discussed visible light’s impact on melasma and relayed information showing that patients who used a broad-spectrum SPF 50 sunscreen with iron oxide fared better than other patients. In the study, 68 melasma patients treated with either broad-spectrum SPF ≥ 50 + iron oxide, a visible light blocker, or SPF ≥ 50 (ultraviolet blocker only); both groups received 4% hydroquinone (considered the “gold standard” by most dermatologists). At 8 weeks, the UV+visible light group had improvement of 77.8% vs. 61.9% for the UV-only group.
“What we do to block sun and visible light is critically important in treating melasma,” she said.
Dr. Taylor also presented information on ingestible options that can be used to treat melasma, specifically polypodium leucotomas and tranexamic acid.
Following Dr. Taylor were Drs. Andrew F. Alexis and Valerie Callender, who showcased how dermatology is about more than vanity.
While dermatologists are thought of as pimple poppers, Dr. Alexis reminded the audience that while they do offer that service, they are also “physicians that diagnose medical conditions that manifest in skin and nails”—such as anemia, diabetes and Lupus, a condition that which affects women and has even higher prevalence among African American women.
Dr. Callendar provided additional information on other medical concerns that manifest in the skin, such as sarcoidosis, which also impacts other organs in the body. The condition affects African-Americans more commonly (35.5/100,000 vs. 10.9/100,000 for Caucasians) and often more severely, she said, noting that the highest incidence is in black women between 30-39 years of age.
Like Thomas and Dr. Desai, Dr. Callendar also spoke about a personal connection to her topic; she had family members who were diagnosed with sarcoidosis and succumbed to complications related to the disease.
Closing out the presentations was Dr. Maritza Perez, who addressed skin concerns and the Latino population, including melanoma, which is rising at an alarming rate.
From accurate diagnosis of major health issues to successful treatment protocols for specific conditions and concerns, skilled dermatologists like the members of SOCS can deliver benefits well beyond more even-toned skin.