Simulation is the gold standard for the education of healthcare professionals and trainees. Medical simulators and clinical skill trainers are available in many areas of healthcare, such as obstetrics, gynecology, and emergency medicine. Nursing and medical students find it “difficult to describe both normal and abnormal skin assessment findings,” therefore it is important that they are exposed to skin cancer and skin conditions through simulation-based learning exercises as well. Despite the range of educational opportunities available for medical institutions and learners, existing resources consistently lack the inclusion of dark skin tones.
Most skin cancer and skin condition training is presented through flat digital images, but there have been recent innovations in educational technology. The University of Illinois College of Medicine Peoria is developing an app for medical students that has a skin lesion photo database that works in combination with a semi-clear and surface-textured skin model.
Diversity in skin condition and skin cancer training is necessary for equitable care
Healthcare professionals and trainees should be taught to identify, diagnose, and treat skin conditions for a range of skin tones. Common conditions may look different on dark skin vs. light skin, and physicians should be trained to provide unbiased care to people of all skin tones.
“Often in medical schools, they have limited pictures of diseases in skin of people of color. That means health professionals trained with these resources aren’t seeing the full picture. The diversity gap is embedded in medical training, and that should concern us all,” says Dr. Lynn McKinley-Grant, dermatology professor at Howard University.
When healthcare trainees are taught pattern recognition through image databases with only white skin tones, treatable skin cancer is often missed and misdiagnosed in Black people. The lack of diversity in healthcare simulators also contributes to the racial disparities in medical education. The consequences are “limitations to educators’ abilities to represent the full array of patients, conditions, and scenarios encountered in medicine and training.”
To combat racial biases, organizations, educators, and people of color working in public health are stepping up: