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American Academy of Dermatology honors Dr. Esther Freeman with national “Patient Care Hero” award


Rosemont, Ill. (September 17, 2020) – The American Academy of Dermatology has named board-certified dermatologist Esther Freeman, MD, PhD, DTM&H, FAAD, a Patient Care Hero for developing an international registry that tracks the many ways COVID-19 manifests itself through the skin.

Early this year, new symptoms of COVID-19 sparked the need for a system to track the dermatological symptoms of the infectious disease. Dr. Freeman and her colleagues on the American Academy of Dermatology’s COVID-19 Task Force quickly developed a registry to track and understand how the virus affects the skin.

While a project of this scale usually would have taken more than six months to get underway, Dr. Freeman and her team launched the registry in just eight days. Since April, the registry has received more than 1,000 submissions from 40 countries.

“As both a dermatologist and an epidemiologist trained in infectious diseases, starting this registry seemed like a natural fit for the work that I do,” said Dr. Freeman, principal investigator for the COVID-19 Dermatology Registry and director of global health dermatology at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. “Since we work in global health, I knew my team had the experience to quickly get the registry up and running on an international scale.”

The registry collects information from health care professionals about patients with a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 who have noticeable skin changes. This also includes patient data on those with pre-existing dermatologic conditions like autoimmune skin conditions, eczema or psoriasis and those who take certain medications that suppress the immune system.

Findings from the data – including research published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology – are helping experts better understand COVID-19 symptoms. For instance, in 12 percent of COVID-19 registry cases, dermatologic manifestations occurred before other symptoms. Nearly half of the submissions specify unusual red or purple tender bumps on the fingers and toes associated with pernio/chilblains, known as “COVID toes.”

“Dr. Freeman and her colleagues quickly recognized the need to identify dermatologic manifestations of COVID-19 from the global community and assembled a registry in record time,” said infectious disease specialist Ingrid Bassett, MD, MPH, who is also leading a project to collect data on the virus. “This is an outstanding achievement that is already improving care.”

The AAD created the Patient Care Heroes program to recognize physicians who transform patients’ lives by utilizing their expertise and collaborating with other physicians to treat serious skin disease.

“During the pandemic, dermatologists are bringing their expertise to the table and contributing to international efforts to learn more about COVID-19,” said board-certified dermatologist Bruce H. Thiers, MD, FAAD, president of the AAD. “Dr. Freeman’s registry highlights the importance and benefits of collaboration across specialties and the broader health care community.”

To learn more about the work of Dr. Freeman, visit www.aad.org/skinserious/stories-esther-freeman.

Published research to date includes:

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About SkinSerious SkinSerious is a campaign by the American Academy of Dermatology that highlights dermatologists’ role as partners in the health care system, providing expert care for serious conditions. To learn more, visit SkinSerious.org.

About the AAD Headquartered in Rosemont, Ill., the American Academy of Dermatology, founded in 1938, is the largest, most influential, and most representative of all dermatologic associations. With a membership of more than 20,000 physicians worldwide, the AAD is committed to: advancing the diagnosis and medical, surgical, and cosmetic treatment of the skin, hair, and nails; advocating high standards in clinical practice, education, and research in dermatology; and supporting and enhancing patient care for a lifetime of healthier skin, hair, and nails. For more information, contact the AAD at 1-888-462-DERM (3376) or aad.org. Follow the AAD on Facebook (American Academy of Dermatology), Twitter (@AADskin) or YouTube (AcademyofDermatology).