Little things with big impact
Brenda Kong considers herself lucky when it comes to medical care for her psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. Though she’s lived with these conditions since childhood, she’s only been under the care of two incredible dermatologists – both of whom were people of color, like her. But that hasn’t kept her from experiencing unconscious bias and issues because she doesn’t look like most of the people in dermatology textbooks.
“It’s little things,” she explained to a group of fellow patient advocates during AbbVie’s Science of Skin: United Beyond the Surface event. “Just the tiny missteps here and there that made me go, ‘Okay, I am not patient A, B, C. I am patient Brenda.”
One of those “little things” had a rather big impact: when Brenda went to receive a skin treatment involving ultraviolet light, the staff at the clinic assumed her body would be able to tolerate a stronger form of the treatment based on her skin tone. “Because I'm so dark, they figured I could take a lot of light… (so) instead of starting me slowly as if I were a lighter-skinned person, they went, ‘instead of starting at level one, we'll go to level three because we think you can take it.’ But level three was way too much for me at that point, and I completely burned.”
Kong’s story was one of many shared at AbbVie’s Science of Skin: United Beyond the Surface event, which brought together integral members of the dermatology community – including expert dermatologists, patients, caregivers and advocates – to discuss the current state of diversity in dermatology and identify ways to affect change.
“Despite the efforts across the dermatology community today, there continue to be opportunities to close the gaps in racial disparities in our industry, and the time to do so is now,” said Chudy Nduaka, therapeutic area head of medical affairs for U.S. dermatology at AbbVie, during his opening remarks for the event. “And as leaders in dermatology, we know we must lead by example to ensure that we are doing everything possible that we can to better serve all patients, including patients of color.”