Medical photographs are crucial to documenting disease in textbooks, journals and training medical students. But if inaccurate, physicians won’t get a clear enough picture of what disease looks like in people with different skin tones, which could impact health outcomes, wrote Georgina Gonzalez in her recent article published in The Verge.com, “Medical Photography is Failing Patients with Darker Skin.” The piece includes information about a recent journal article in which a dermatologist offers guidance for photographing skin conditions in people of color and describes how bias has been built into photography for decades.
It was the first freelance pitch for Gonzalez, who works full-time as a news reporter for Becker’s Hospital Review. In a new “How I Did It,” she shares the story behind the story and her advice to AHCJ members writing about technology. (Responses have been lightly edited and condensed.)
How did you get the idea for this story?
I was an intern at NBC and was searching for news when I came across a cover photo that a news organization had posted of [businessman and former presidential candidate] Andrew Yang. People were complaining on Twitter about the photo and the color wash because he looked very yellow. It led to numerous racist stereotypes about Asians during the height of anti-Asian hate happening in the city. The organization apologized, but I remember seeing people in the thread saying, “Oh, it was the filter,” or “It’s because it was taken on a film camera.” Then, I became interested in how technology can produce an image that’s not representative, especially if it leans into racist tropes.