Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Your Guide to the Drama Around DEI in Dermatology StellaMela

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Image Source: Getty/Luis Alvarez

Over the last few weeks, if you follow skin-care experts on TikTok or Instagram, you’ve likely encountered heated discussions about the state of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in dermatology. For background, the latest drama around the topic stems from a resolution sent to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), calling for an end to DEI programs offered by the group. This, naturally, sparked varied reactions from doctors across the country – but what exactly did it mean?

Here’s everything you need to know about the DEI in dermatology situation.

What Started the Dermatology DEI Drama?

Dermatologist Brian Raphael, MD, FAAD, introduced the resolution, titled Sunsetting All Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Programs, in late 2023. The proposal, which has been reviewed by POPSUGAR, describes DEI as heavily politicized and not inclusive of all minority groups. In a series of listed points, it states that DEI is “a political movement that categorizes certain groups as oppressors and others as oppressed, creating a binary system of ‘racist’ or ‘anti-racist’ without allowance for neutrality” and “[a contributor] to a decrease in the ability to provide unbiased and equal medical care for everyone, as it is seen to foster division rather than unity,” among other claims.

The group of nearly 100 signing doctors propose that “the AAD/A should remove the current DEI initiative” and “adopt a more inclusive and unifying ideology in its place, one that genuinely promotes the end of racism and supports the equal treatment and respect of all individuals, especially within the healthcare system.”

While the resolution was sent in 2023, it seems to have been leaked to the public in February 2024, instantly going viral as other doctors, as well as members of the public, caught wind of it. (Links to the official document have since been deleted.)

The Response to the DEI Resolution

As a result, a group of dermatologists filed an opposing resolution – in addition to a Change.org petition – in early February, titled Opposition to the Resolution to Dismantle/Remove the Current American Academy of Dermatology | Association (AAD/A) Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Initiative.

In it, doctors Wendy Roberts, MD, FAAD; Jeanine Downie, MD, FAAD; and Heidi Waldorf, MD, FAAD, claim that “the AAD/A DEI program in its infancy has been successful in working with all members from diverse backgrounds and including industry to develop outreach, mentorship, educational and award programs as part of its 4-prong plan of implementation,” and that “removing or altering this well contemplated and designed AAD/A initiative based on subjective opinions and no facts as it relates to the specialty of Dermatology would be taking steps backward for unexplained reasons.” This plan essentially puts in place building blocks to promote and facilitate diversity, equity, and inclusion within the AAD, ultimately increasing the number of practicing dermatologists who are a part of minority groups and, in turn, ensuring that dermatologic research and education is inclusive of skin of color.


A group of Doctors part of the American Academy of Dermatology (@aadskin) submitted a resolution to “Sunset All Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) programs. The resolution claims (without proof) that DEI is contributing to a decrease in the ability to provide unbiased and equal care for everyone, and is perceived as being filled with antisemitism. In the United States, less than 4% of all Dermatologists are Black. What is well documented is that racial health disparities in outcomes for dermatologic conditions like Melanoma and Lyme disease continue to exist, and medical schools still fail to include darker skin tones in their curriculum. Removing programs that DEI initiatives support like research, mentorship opportunities, and education sessions about skin color will set back the little progress that has been made. I’ve put a full link to the resolution in question as well as a link to sign a petition to expand DEI efforts in the AAD. Consider signing it. #joelbervell #dermatology #healthequity #dermondarkerskin

♬ original sound – joelbervell

“The general reaction to this resolution so far has been a lot of shock,” fourth-year medical student Joel Bervell tells POPSUGAR. “There’s already been a history of DEI not being taken as seriously as it should be in dermatology, so to see a resolution like this only a few years in, pushing back against all this work that people have been trying to do . . . is disappointing.”

Where the Resolution to Sunset DEI Programs in Dermatology Stands

POPSUGAR reached out to a representative for AAD for clarification on the process of turning a resolution into policy. Through a press release, they shared that resolutions are typically brought forward during the Advisory Board Reference Committee Hearing, which will be held this year on March 8 during the AAD’s Annual Meeting.

After the hearing concludes, the committee has an executive session to consider all of the testimonies from the hearing. From there, the committee drafts its recommendations, which will be presented to the full advisory board at its general business meeting. This year, this meeting will be held on Sunday, March 10. Lastly, resolutions adopted at the advisory board general business meeting will be considered by the Board of Directors at a meeting in May. According to this source, who asked to remain anonymous, as of right now the original resolution to sunset DEI programs is not at the point of board consideration. It is unclear whether it was passed during the last Advisory Board General Business Meeting.

POPSUGAR has reached out to AAD-member doctors on both sides of the proposed resolution to sunset AAD DEI programs. They could not be reached for comment.

Ariel Baker is the assistant editor for POPSUGAR Beauty. Her areas of expertise include celebrity news, beauty trends, and product reviews. She has additional bylines with Essence and Forbes Vetted.

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