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Part 3: The Value of Support Groups in Vitiligo Care Beyond the Clinic

Featuring Richard Huggins, MD |

Dermatologist 
Member of the board of directors at the Global Vitiligo Foundation 
Detroit, MI

| Published June 24, 2024

In this Topical Conversations special edition 4-part series, Richard Huggins, MD, dermatologist and member of the board of directors at the Global Vitiligo Foundation, is joined by Amaris Geisler, MD, Katie O’Connell, MS, and Tonja Johnson of the Beautifully Unblemished Vitiligo Support Group, to discuss their publication on the importance of vitiligo patient support groups and how these groups can provide value to both patients and providers. 

In Part 3, the conversation explores how support groups transform the patient experience and how these groups can support physician education and research needs. 

Personal rewards and inspirations 

Dr Huggins shares that participating in support groups has been one of the most rewarding experiences of his life. He acknowledges that patients with vitiligo often face self-consciousness and unwanted attention due to their visible condition, making participation in such groups transformative. Witnessing patients go from discomfort leaving their homes to embracing their condition and leading fulfilling lives can be inspirational both personally and professionally. 

Educational insights for providers 

From a physician's perspective, Dr Huggins emphasizes the educational value of support groups. With medical school and residency typically focusing on treatments and medications, support groups offer practical insights into managing vitiligo that are invaluable. For example, learning about cover-up techniques and addressing common misconceptions about vitiligo allows physicians to better care for their patients and provide informed counseling during clinic visits. 

Participating in support groups can also help physicians learn about and address patient misconceptions directly, such as the belief that vitiligo increases the risk of skin cancer or COVID-19. 

Support groups as research assets 

From a research standpoint, support groups are invaluable for providers who participate in clinical trials. They provide a concentrated pool of potential participants and offer insights and ideas that can inform research directions. Support group members play a crucial role in recruiting participants and shaping research priorities.

For more on vitiligo support groups, check out Part 1 and Part 2 of this series.

For practical guidance on navigating support groups, continue on to Part 4.

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