By Megan Sayles, AFRO Business Writer,
Report for the member of the America Corps.
In the summer of 2010, Avery Smith’s wife, LaToya Donita-Smith, found a raised mole on his scalp. She soon underwent a skin biopsy and a month later was diagnosed with stage II melanoma, a type of skin cancer that begins in the cells that dictate your skin’s pigment.
She received treatment, but the cancer was very aggressive. In December 2011, Donita-Smith died of the disease, several months after she and Smith lost their unborn child to cancer.
Smith was devastated.
“While we were going through this, one of the things I recognized, unbeknownst to me, was that health care was not accessible across racial lines,” Smith said. “I was thinking positively and I thought we could get the help we needed. I hadn’t realized that advances in dermatology and skin health were more advanced if you had Caucasian skin than if you had dark or black skin.
According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), a DC-based non-profit organization, the incidence of melanoma is significantly lower in black communities due to the melanin in their skin which helps block ultraviolet rays. harmful.
But, black people who develop melanoma are often diagnosed at a later stage and, therefore, have lower survival rates than their counterparts. In the United States, the five-year survival rate for black patients with melanoma was 66%, compared to 90% for white patients from 2011 to 2015.
Smith, who is based in Takoma Park, Maryland, already had extensive experience in software engineering and website and app development, and in 2017 he discovered how artificial intelligence was used to analyze data. and health patterns.
He had always wanted to create a platform that positively impacted people’s lives, and he also wanted to help other black people protect themselves from damaging and deadly skin conditions, so he designed Melalogic.
Melalogic is an AI-powered web application that provides black communities with skin health insights and solutions from established black dermatologists, who make up just 3% of the highly competitive medical specialty.
The platform will feature a decision support system that will allow users to submit photos of their skin concerns and receive instant feedback and suggestions regarding their diagnosis and treatment options.
“Also what you will be able to do is learn how this particular skin issue can present on different skin tones, not just one but multiple skin tones per issue, because black people come in all shades,” Smith said.
Melalogic will also soon be rolling out its Black Skin Health Resource Center, a digital, interactive, and immersive experience for users to learn about skin disorders, diseases, and conditions.
According to Dr. Chesahna Kindred, board-certified dermatologist and owner of Kindred Hair & Skin Center, besides melanoma, conditions such as hidradenitis suppurativa (HS), central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia (CCCA) and keloids are also more common in the black community. .
For her, the biggest obstacle for black people receiving dermatological care is the lack of available dermatologists.
“If you look at majority black cities, they’re more likely to have no dermatologists in that city, let alone a culturally competent dermatologist,” Kindred said. “Then if you have a dermatologist, often they haven’t been trained in black skin, so the barrier isn’t at the foot of the patient, it’s at the foot of medical education.”
Currently, Smith is calling for volunteers, especially black people with knowledge of their skin conditions and remedies, to share their information and data to bolster Melalogic’s AI. He’s also looking to hire a chief technology officer and co-founder to lead the company’s computer vision research.
For him, Melalogic is a love letter to his community.
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