Importance of including BIPOC skin lesions in medical training: UMKC medical students lead change in medical curricula

September 30, 2021

Authors: Deepa Kumar, Osama Kamal

Editor: Thomas Pak, Donato Mignones

Series of AMSA Medical Education pieces for 2021-2022



The AMSA medical education committee highlights the work of University of Missouri – Kansas City’s medical students in leading change in medical curricula. The UMKC medical students saw a lack of images of skin lesions on Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). This was a huge limitation in their medical education since many conditions can present differently based on skin tone and contribute to racial healthcare disparities. The UMKC medical students compiled an index of BIPOC skin lesions, and successfully made it part of their school’s curriculum. Although attempts to combat systemic inequalities can seem daunting, change almost always begins on smaller scales. AMSA applauds UMKC students for this proactive action!



As UMKC medical students, we rotate at Truman Medical Center in downtown Kansas City, home to a large BIPOC patient population. However, we saw shortcomings in our medical education regarding the patients we serve. While 37.4% of the American population is Black or People of Color, only 25.5% of images in medical textbooks represent medium and dark skin. This was particularly evident in our dermatology lectures where there was a lack of representation of BIPOC skin tones. In dermatology, images play an essential role in identifying skin lesions and without exposure to pictures depicting the presentation on darker skin tones, there is a risk of missing crucial diagnoses.


We first compiled a thorough index of 40 skin conditions that can present differently depending on skin color. We sourced information and high-quality images from reputable journals, medical textbooks such as Taylor and Kelly’s Dermatology for Skin of Color (free on AccessMedicine!), and databases on the pathology, epidemiology, and presentation of these conditions on both lighter and darker skin. Our efforts culminated into an easy-to-read presentation that we sent to our Dean of Diversity and Inclusion along with the directors of the Clinical Practice of Medicine, a course in which we hoped to implement the expanded curriculum.


Our Dean of Diversity and Inclusion and course directors notified us that they will incorporate our presentation’s content in future curriculum, and allocate more course time on dermatology lectures and workshops. The expanded curriculum will ensure that all skin colors are represented in our medical education. Beyond this course, our institution is dedicated to ensuring our medical education is more representative of BIPOC overall.


This project allowed us to not only impact the education of our peers, but also the quality of care received by BIPOC patients of our school’s future alumni. As we continue our clinical rotations and move onto further training, we hope we are better prepared to serve and to interpret skin lesions on our BIPOC patients. Our work is not finished as much progress needs to be made in reducing racial disparities in healthcare, but we look forward to continuing to advocate for our patients. We hope that other medical schools will expand their curricula to reflect our increasingly diverse patient populations. 


  • Please email Deepa Kumar at dskcw9@umsystem.edu to learn more about their process and to see their slides.
  • You can also check out the Brown Skin Matters Instagram page and a new clinical handbook, Mind the Gap, written by medical student Malone Mukwende.


Keep an eye out for future Medical Education Team updates and follow our work here!