Author: Jenna Windhorst
Evaluating skin for potential disorders and conditions is what every medical student is taught. They are shown the steps in diagnosing different conditions from the variations in appearance, shapes, sizes. But they all have something in common. Something that poses a challenge in society. Where’s the color? These students and other medical professionals are only being trained on identifying conditions on white patients. Malone Mukwende, a second year student at University of London pointed out this perplexing issue and sought to solve it.
Mukwende was tired of not getting the answers he wanted when it came to asking about the lack of signs and symptoms for black and brown skin. "I decided I needed to do something to challenge this issue myself." He and other British doctors/med students wished to give more representation to people of color in society, and together they launched a petition against the norm.
Without properly identifying the conditions in Brown and Black skin, it could potentially be fatal for the patient. Petitioners have pointed out that Kawasaki disease appears as a red blotchy rash on white skin; however, on darker skin it is harder to spot. Understanding the differences can help with quicker diagnoses and fairer medical treatment for a diverse society.
Credited with creating “Mind the Gap,” Mukwende designed a handbook that shows images of skin conditions on a pale versus darker skin. He developed this handbook to educate others on the differences and hopes to continue to spread awareness to it. Even with its publication in August, it has already been spread to 102 countries and been used and recommended by hospitals and universities in the U.K. Starting with just a handbook, Mukwende has built a website alongside it. "Black and Brown Skin" allows people to submit any photos or stories to grow content and share it among a wide range of people. Mukwende’s initiatives are a major step towards a society of less racism and bias in medicine. Not only does it help integrate society, but pushes towards saving more patients’ lives.