Sacharitha Bowers, MD, FAAD, is an American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) Patient Care Hero for her role in addressing disparities in care related to COVID-19 in Springfield, Ill.
Leveraging years of relationship-building with local organizations and community members, the Southern Illinois University (SIU) School of Medicine launched the ‘Equity COVID Response Team’ to build trust and improve care for Black residents. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, those who are Black or African American have much higher rates of COVID cases, hospitalization, and death than people who are white.
To gain a deeper understanding of how the pandemic is affecting the nearby communities, Dr. Bowers and her colleagues across specialties worked with the health department to collect information on race and zip codes to identify gaps and guide outreach and education efforts. The team used this information to develop and distribute thousands of tailored educational materials that reflect the needs and concerns of community residents. The result was a highly successful campaign that educated people about how to protect themselves from the virus and encouraged mask wearing, particularly among Black community members.
“My participation in SIU’s Equity COVID Response Team demonstrates there is so much dermatologists can do to help change the trajectory of COVID-19 for different populations in our communities,” says Dr. Bowers, a dermatologist at SIU Medicine and assistant professor in SIU School of Medicine’s Department of Internal Medicine, in a news release. “Community service is incredibly rewarding, and I consider it our duty as physicians. I’m proud to collaborate with my colleagues to increase safety and decrease the virus’s spread in Springfield, particularly among those most vulnerable to it.”
The team held a virtual town hall to answer questions from local residents in hopes of increasing the number of people getting tested and ultimately decreasing infections and community spread.
“Dermatologists are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic in many ways—from stepping into emergency rooms to offering innovative care virtually to collaborating on-the-ground with high-risk communities,” says Bruce H. Thiers, MD, FAAD, president of the AAD. “The Academy commends Dr. Bowers and her colleagues for rapidly helping Springfield-area residents protect themselves from COVID-19.”
To learn more about Dr. Bowers’ work, visit www.aad.org/skinserious/stories-sacharitha-bowers.