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Startups' tool helps doctors identify monkeypox in people of color

Erin Brodwin
Sep 15, 2022
Screenshot of an image of dark skinned hands with lighter dots and a color picker tool.
Screenshot: Violet

Health care startups Violet and Health in Her Hue collaborated this month to create a simple tool that helps clinicians better identify monkeypox (MPV) in people with dark skin tones.

Why it matters: Medical dermatology textbooks are replete with images of white or light skin, but dermatologic conditions can appear dramatically different on people with dark skin tones, leading to potentially missed diagnoses. That's a particular concern with MPV, which manifests on the skin.

  • A recent analysis of textbooks found that only 4% to 18% of images in major dermatology resources showed images of dark skin.
  • "That’s a missed opportunity," Violet content marketing manager Mariah Katz, who helped create the tool, tells Axios.

How it works: The tool lets clinicians click on a series of 10 skin tones and view illustrations — based on photos from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — of how MPV appears on that tone as it progresses.

  • "We always ask ourselves: What are medical students not typically learning in school? And we try and bridge the gaps to help deliver more inclusive care," adds Katz.

Context: Violet provides educational resources to help clinicians develop and get credentialed in cultural competency, while Health in Her Hue links Black women with culturally competent providers.

  • The two New York-based startups collaborated to develop the guide.

Flashback: Violet in August debuted with $4.1 million in seed funding in a round led by SemperVirens, bringing total funding to $5.3 million.

What they're saying: Jenna Lester, an assistant professor of dermatology at UCSF and the founding director of its Skin of Color Clinic, tells Axios the guide is an encouraging step towards more inclusive care.

  • "I think it’s important for us to develop any tools we can to help clinicians identify skin disease in patients of all skin tones," says Lester.
  • "I’m encouraged to see specific products designed to address the people who are traditionally left out or excluded from care," she adds.
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