Cork dermatologists win gold medal at US medical conference

Dermatologists from the South Infirmary Victoria University Hospital in Cork presented breaking research at the American Contact Dermatitis Society’s annual meeting in Boston, outlining a novel project to promote equity and rural inclusion in healthcare in Munster.

The research project entitled, ‘Piloting photographic photonic patch testing: pioneering equitable diagnosis of contact dermatitis’, won the distinguished Fran Storrs Gold Poster Award at the international meeting.

The study was led by Dr John Bourke, Consultant Dermatologist and expert in skin allergy, in collaboration with Munster Technology University (MTU), Cork. Patch testing involves the application of different chemicals to the skin to investigate for skin allergy (allergic contact dermatitis), with the results determined visually on days 2 and 4.

Dr Eimear Gilhooley, one of the authors, said, ‘Due to limited access to patch testing during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic the employment of innovative strategies was necessary to enhance access to healthcare’.

During the pandemic, photographs of patch test results were taken remotely to determine the diagnosis in the context of restricted access to the service. In order to augment the image quality of the patch test readings, photographic photonic technology was employed in collaboration with Dr Michael McAuliffe at MTU.

Photonics generates, detects and manipulates physical light (photons) which can assess blood-flow in a clinical photograph and potentially act as a surrogate marker for skin inflammation.

The role of technology in promoting equitable access to healthcare is growing. Patch testing lends itself to virtual interpretation, affording patients better access to high quality healthcare regardless of their geographical location.

If you need guidance or support about managing a skin condition, contact the Irish Skin Foundation’s Ask-a-Nurse Helpline.