How the Chicago Dermatological Society Launched a National Movement to Make Dermatology More Diverse and Inclusive

Recognizing that dermatology is one of the least integrated of the medical specialties in North America and noting the profound racial disparities in healthcare equity, Dr. Jordan Carqueville made diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) the focus of her 2021-2022 term as president of the Chicago Dermatological Society (CDS)

“In the field of dermatology, patients of color often don’t know where to turn for skin health advice, and are 50% less likely to see a dermatologist for the same conditions,” says Carqueville, a board-certified dermatologist and dermatopathologist and fellowship-trained Mohs micrographic surgeon, who has been voted Chicago’s Best Cosmetic Dermatologist by Better readers for the past five years.

In the past year, CDS launched initiatives that directly address three of the biggest barriers to diversity: 1) competitive requirements for dermatology residency, 2) lack of formal mentoring; and 3) implicit, explicit and cultural biases. 

Chicago Derm Society
CDS Vice President Dr. Jonith Breadon and President Dr. Jordan Carqueville | Photo courtesy of Chicago Dermatological Society

To raise awareness of biases, CDS hosted the Art of Skin Gala sponsored by Janssen Biotech, Inc. on June 10, 2022.

Chicago Derm Society
Photo courtesy of Chicago Dermatological Society

The evening of culinary, visual, dance, and musical experiences was held at Revel Motor Row on June 10, 2022 and brought together more than 400 dermatologists and media including media sponsors BET and Make It Better Media Group, and inspiring speakers, including Chris Gardner, renowned author of “Pursuit of Happyness”, entrepreneur, speaker and philanthropist.

Chicago Derm Society
Chris Gardner, Awardee | Photo courtesy of Chicago Dermatological Society

The event shined a light on DEI barriers and raised $1.1M to support STEM education in underserved communities of color through two beneficiary nonprofits, Horizons for Youth, a 2014 Make It Better Foundation Philanthropy Award winner, and High Jump, funding and endowing a new “Skin of Color” Lectureship Series which provides advanced training to CDS members on the nuances of diagnosing and treating people with skin of color, and funding a new dermatology mentorship program for medical students of underrepresented backgrounds for the next five years.

Addressing the lack of formal mentoring, CDS has now launched the DURM mentorship program for medical students from backgrounds underrepresented in medicine. The four mentees selected in the launch program have already asked to be part of the selection process going forward and CDS has endowed DURM for the next four years.

Mentees | Photo courtesy of Chicago Dermatological Society

To address competitiveness, CDS raised $250,000 for High Jump and Horizons for Youth. These two Chicago nonprofits provide STEM education to students in grades K-12 in underserved communities.

“While the mentorships are the last push in attracting a more inclusive population of dermatologists, the process begins by exposing more diverse students to math and science at a young age,” says Dr. Carqueville.

Putting purpose at the center of CDS not only benefitted the community and the profession, it drove multiple positive, measurable outcomes for CDS as an organization, including growing sponsorship and philanthropic revenue 1,000 percent, from $100,000 to more than $1M and attracting lead sponsor Janssen Biotech, Inc., and its DEI partner AbbVie, two businesses that have demonstrated substantial commitments to inclusion.

First-time supporters were also engaged, including L’Oréal, Bristol Myers Squibb and Organogenesis. Additionally, prior commitments were more than tripled from companies including Allergan, Amgen, Castle Biosciences, Genentech, Incyte, Lilly, Pfizer, Sanofi and UCB.

Chicago Derm Society
Skin Tone Models with Hot Pink Makeup | Photo courtesy of Chicago Dermatological Society

CDS has also garnered the attention of blue-chip organizations such as The American Academy of Dermatology, Washington University in St. Louis, and The Skin of Color Society, all of which have reached out to CDS to explore future collaborations.

Chicago Derm Society
Dr. Breadon and Dr. Carqueville | Photo courtesy of Chicago Dermatological Society

National organizations have long been working to make dermatology more inclusive. But, what CDS started in Chicago—mobilizing the efforts of dermatologists, residents, philanthropic donors, pharmaceutical companies, volunteers, local media and a local medical society to support initiatives to deliver quality care for all patients inclusive of their race or ethnicity—demonstrates the power of a movement when activated at the local level. 

And CDS’s movement doesn’t end here. The American Academy of Dermatology now has plans to bring these benefits to other local dermatological societies by taking the Art of Skin playbook to other markets.

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