How GW’s medical school is connecting underserved communities with dermatology services

George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences dermatology program is targeting health disparities in D.C. by offering telehealth appointments to people in Wards 7 and 8.

The university opened a teledermatology “health desk” in Ward 8 last year, in part thanks to a $250,000 grant from Pfizer, according to a news release. The free clinic connect patients with telehealth doctors who can treat common skin conditions from afar.

It’s been a success, according to the university. And the pharmaceutical company is now offering grants to other institutions nationwide that will use the Ward 8 clinic as a model, according to a news release from the school.

“The benefit of this clinic is that it allows the patient to experience a telehealth visit with the assistance of a telehealth ambassador, so to speak, to kind of help show them how to maneuver their phone or an iPad so that the person on their side can see what the problem is,” said Dr. Adam Friedman, professor and chair of dermatology at George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences.

The university’s pilot program operates out of The Temple of Praise, a church in Southeast.

Residents of Ward 8 are the most “at-risk” population in D.C. with a poverty rate of 36.8%. There are no dermatology clinics in the low income area, according to the department of health, according to the D.C. Department of Health.

‘Armed with medical students … dermatology residents’

Friedman attributes the success of telehealth practices to the COVID-19 pandemic, which allowed for more access to health care in rural and impoverished areas.

Patient-facing organizations around the country will need to apply for the grant in order to take part in the clinic’s programs and technology.

While speaking about the D.C. clinic, Friedman said the hospital’s strong connections with the community allowed it to help residents.

“On the ground level at the church, we are armed with medical students, myself, dermatology residents help kind of run the kind of several facets of the clinic, which is education, and this is education on telemedicine,” Friedman said. “So if you’re a resident that lives near Temple of Praise and are suffering from atopic dermatitis, or eczema or hair loss, we’re still holding these monthly clinics usually on the third Monday of the month from 4 to 6 p.m.”

Organizations who are interested in receiving a grant to open a clinic have to apply online by Aug. 24.

WTOP’s Mike Murillo contributed to this report.

Jessica Kronzer

Jessica Kronzer graduated from James Madison University in May 2021 after studying media and politics. She enjoys covering politics, advocacy and compelling human-interest stories.

Ciara Wells

Ciara Wells is the Evening Digital Editor at WTOP. She is a graduate of American University where she studied journalism and Spanish. Before joining WTOP, she was the opinion team editor at a student publication and a content specialist at an HBCU in Detroit.

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