Dermatology’s Time to Shine

Chances are pretty high that by now you’ve seen at least one episode of the seemingly endless series of Crime Scene Investigator shows. With thousands of plots of CSI agents breaking cases based on what is most likely at least slightly pseudo-science – techniques that don’t actually exist or wouldn’t actually stand up in trial – a regular watcher of one of the shows has probably seen it all.

Though I knock the show for what they claim science can accomplish, there is certainly an amount of truth to the shows. Science can help inform criminal investigations on a regular basis, turning ordinary lab rats into heroes of society.

And now it’s time for dermatologists to get in the game.

That’s right, those swanky, thrill-seeking skin inspectors have been called out of their fast and loose lifestyles by a well-known forensic art instructor at the Northwestern University Center for Public Safety. In an essay recently published in the journal Clinics in Dermatology, Lois Gibson advocates for the dermatologists of the world to unite with the criminal sketch artist community.

It makes sense when you think about it. Nobody knows more about skin lesions, scars and other abnormalities than a dermatologist. So when an eye witness describes a scar that screams reconstructive knee surgery or splotches that can only come from melanoma, identifying these marks could go a long way towards solving a crime, catching a perpetrator or identifying a John or Jane Doe.

“Knowing how someone may have gotten a scar is a clue investigators could use. If a dermatologist gives a few different possible causes, law enforcement could screen callers by asking specific questions about a suspect’s scars or skin condition,” said Gibson. “If dermatologists see a sketch of an unidentified suspect or victim on TV and notice an unusual scar or skin condition, they should reach out to the artist or detective working on the case and offer their expertise about the possible origin of the skin abnormality. You never know what detail might solve a crime.”

Dermatologists of the world, your time has come to step into the limelight.

Carpe Diem, my friends.

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About bigkingken

A science writer dedicated to proving that the Big Ten - or the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, if you will - is more than athletics.
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