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Ideas and Opinions |

Perceptions and Misperceptions of Skin Color

Stephen H. Caldwell, MD; and Rebecca Popenoe, MA
[+] Article, Author, and Disclosure Information

From the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia. Requests for Reprints: Stephen H. Caldwell, University of Virginia Health Sciences Center, Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Box 145, Charlottesville, VA 22908. Acknowledgments: The authors thank Drs. Michael Rein, A. Sidney Barritt, Julia Popenoe, and Catherine Fisher for their suggestions and review of this manuscript and Ms. Kim Pennington for expert secretarial assistance.

Copyright ©2004 by the American College of Physicians

Ann Intern Med. 1995;122(8):614-617. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-122-8-199504150-00010
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Case presentations are part of many clinicians' daily routines.The format for such presentations often involves stating the age, sex, and race of the patient in the opening description. However, although single-word racial labels such as “black” or “white” are of occasional help to the clinician, they are of limited diagnostic and therapeutic help in many routine cases. Because of their broad scope and lack of scientific clarity, these terms often poorly represent information—for example, about genetic risks and perceptions of disease—that they are supposed to convey. In many instances, they are superficial and potentially misleading terms that fail to serve the patient's medical needs. Demoting these terms from the opening line of routine case presentations shows a recognition of their limitations as scientific labels. Our patients will be better served by more detailed explorations of ethnicity, when germane, in the History of Present Illness or Social History sections of the case presentation in question.





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