Medscape at 25: Recognizing Medicine's Rising Stars

Becky Lang


December 07, 2020

Jenna Lester, MD, is the founder and director of the Skin of Color Program in the Department of Dermatology at the University of California, San Francisco, where she's an assistant professor of dermatology. She is an active member of the American Academy of Dermatology, where she sits on a task force for augmented intelligence.

Jenna Lester, MD, remembers exactly where she was when she decided to take the leap to specialize in dermatology. She was walking up a hill in Providence, Rhode Island, after talking with her mom, another physician, who encouraged her to go for it despite the pressure.

"It was a scary thought, because I knew how competitive it was. And like many other minority students, I was immediately counting myself out," says Lester, now an assistant professor of dermatology at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).

As a medical student at Brown University, she'd been exposed to the basics of dermatology. "I thought, 'Wow, it really is more than acne and Botox,'" she says.

During her residency at UCSF, Lester realized her patients of color had a different reaction when she walked into the room. She and the patient would acknowledge each other.

"They were clearly relieved that they're seeing someone who will understand their skin conditions," Lester says. "There really is a need [for care] that is explicitly marketed and designed for people of color."

She finished her residency in 2018 and by that autumn launched the Skin of Color Program in UCSF’s dermatology department.

At first, Lester was the only provider in the clinic, but now she's expanded to incorporate residents. "I'm able to give them advice and tips on how to better communicate, and to make a better diagnosis," she says, "as well as pick up on the subtleties of various rashes on patients with dark skin."

Those subtleties can be crucial in detecting infection, particularly in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Lester recently studied the medical literature with images of COVID-19–related rashes, and not a single one was of Black skin.

"We know that there is an imbalance in representation of patients of color in research studies," Lester says.

Changing the demographics of the specialty can help, Lester says. "Diversifying the workforce is an important part of health equity in dermatology."

As part of Medscape's celebration of our 25th anniversary this year, we're recognizing 25 young physicians who are rising stars in medicine, poised to become future leaders of their fields. View the full list here.


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