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An Ode to KodachromeThe Color Film That Transformed Dermatologic Medical Education

To identify the key insights or developments described in this article
1 Credit CME

Importance  From its debut in 1935 until its discontinuation in 2009, Eastman Kodak Company’s Kodachrome color reversal film was a cornerstone for dermatologic teaching innovations that transformed 20th century medical education. This Special Communication examines Kodachrome’s contributions to the field of dermatology, as well as its lessons for improving inclusive representation of patients of all skin tones in 21st century dermatologic curricula.

Observations  Kodachrome’s color quality, its slide transparency format, and its broad commercial availability democratized the creation, sharing, and teaching of visual information about skin disease in the 20th century. Kodachrome’s usefulness as a complement to bedside teaching modernized medical school curricula, dermatologic conferences, and the American Board of Dermatology certifying examination, which inspired the Kodachrome-style of didactic that remains central to dermatologic training programs today. However, Kodachrome film was also the product of a prejudiced era when color film technology and photographic best practices were optimized for white skin. These biases are still evident in industry standards, photographic techniques, and the historically unjust representation of skin of color in educational resources.

Conclusions and Relevance  Kodachrome film contributed substantially to shaping 20th-century medical education; however, its legacy is a reminder that diverse and inclusive image representation in dermatologic curricula is vital to counteracting implicit biases, correcting assumptions about disease epidemiology, and providing high-quality care for patients of all skin tones. Historical biases that have harmed representations of racial and ethnic minorities in dermatologic curricula are being addressed through improvements in digital photographic technologies, photographic best practices that serve a broader range of skin tones, inclusive skin color representation in contemporary educational resources, and skin-of-color specific curriculum for learners.

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Article Information

Accepted for Publication: April 21, 2022.

Published Online: June 15, 2022. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2022.2104

Corresponding Author: Powell Perng, MD, Dermatology Sugarhouse Clinic, 1280 E Stringham Ave, Salt Lake City, UT 84106 (powell.perng@hsc.utah.edu).

Author Contributions: Dr Perng had full access to all of the data in the study and takes responsibility for the integrity of the data and its accuracy.

Concept and design: Perng.

Acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data: All authors.

Drafting of the manuscript: Perng.

Critical revision of the manuscript for important intellectual content: All authors.

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: None reported.

Additional Contributions: We thank Daren Simkin, MD (Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine) and Sarah Cipriano, MD, MPH, MS (University of Utah School of Medicine) for their insightful and valuable feedback.

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