Taylor, Susan C.

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Susan C. Taylor


Physician, author

Susan C. Taylor is a dermatologist and specialist in ethnic skin care and health in Philadelphia and New York City. Since 1999 she has served as director of the Skin of Color Center at St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital Center, the first medical practice in the United States devoted to treating patients with pigmented skin, hair, and nails. She forecasted this focus to be a growing part of twenty-first century dermatology, she explained in an article that appeared in Dermatology Times. "The United States is becoming a country in which the majority of its citizens will no longer have white skin but will instead have skin of color," writer Karen Nash quoted her as saying. "They will be of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, and will include people of African-American, Hispanic, and Asian descent."

Susan Charlene Taylor was born on October 7, 1957, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where she and her younger sister were raised by their single mother. During her high school years she attended Friends Select School, a private Quaker academy whose Philadelphia origins dated back to 1689. "I was the kid who wanted to grow up to be a doctor and take care of people and make them better," Taylor recalled on her Web site, Brownskin.net. "I was lucky that everyone along the way supported that goal."

In 1979 Taylor earned her undergraduate degree in biology, graduating magna cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania. She went on to Harvard Medical School, and graduated with her M.D. in 1983. While in medical school, Taylor had planned on specializing in an area with relevance to African-American health—cardiovascular diseases and diabetes both affect a disproportionate number of blacks in America—but during her fourth-year medical school rotation she was assigned to the hospital's dermatology department and found her calling. "It was a completely eye-opening experience," she wrote on Brownskin.net. "It was a specialty that really incorporated internal medicine in terms of the collagen vascular diseases and rheumatologic diseases, but beyond that there was a surgical component to it and an aesthetic component. I could also see patients of all ages."

Taylor spent her medical internship and first years as a resident at Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia, then went on to Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, an affiliation between Columbia University and Presbyterian Hospital, in New York City for a three-year residency in dermatology. When she finished in 1989, she returned to Philadelphia and entered private practice with Society Hill Dermatology. Yet she returned to both of her alma maters, Penn and Columbia, to serve as assistant clinical professor of dermatology. In 1999, she and her Columbia University mentor, Dr. Vincent A. DeLeo, co-founded the Skin of Color Center at St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital Center.

Affiliated with the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, the Skin of Color Center in New York City became the first facility of its kind in the United States in its focus on patient care and research into dermatology concerns of particular ethnic groups. Black men's skin, for example, is prone to pseudofolliculitis barbae (PFB), or shaving-razor bumps, and there are a range of other conditions that dermatologists know are particular to specific ethnic groups.

"With more than 35 [percent] of the United States population comprised of non-Caucasians, it's important for dermatologists to develop treatments which do not interfere or compete with the skin's color," a report in Health & Medicine Week quoted Taylor as saying.

The Skin of Color Center has received several grants to conduct research on various skin conditions, but carrying out those studies also presented certain issues. "In terms of African-Americans, according to the literature overall, African-Americans have a distrust of the healthcare system," Taylor explained in another article that appeared in Dermatology Times. "The Tuskegee experiment with syphilis is cited. It's my observation that many patients are averse to participating in clinical trials—they feel they're being experimented on and know that, in the past, those experiments weren't necessarily positive."

Beyond serving her own patients, Taylor reached out to the general population through media, offering advice and detailing her own skincare regimen. Taylor's book, Brown Skin: Dr. Susan Taylor's Prescription for Flawless Skin, Hair, and Nails, was published in 2003. Her skin-care advice and comments were regularly featured on the pages of Essence and O, The Oprah Magazine. She also involved herself in numerous professional, charitable, and civic organizations, several of them associated with the University of Pennsylvania. Married to Kemel W. Dawkins since 1983, she is the mother of two daughters. Asked by writer Jenny Bailly in O, The Oprah Magazine about her own cosmetic-dermatology regimen, she cited regular salicylic acid peels and injections of Botox, and advised readers to be wary of "anything that hasn't been around at least five years." She also scoffed at ads for some over-the-counter products, noting that "any that claim they can penetrate the muscles and have an effect comparable to Botox. That's just ridiculous."

Selected writings


Brown Skin: Dr. Susan Taylor's Prescription for Flawless Skin, Hair, and Nails, Amistad Press, 2003.

At a Glance …

Born on October 7, 1957, in Philadelphia, PA; daughter of Charles and Ethel Taylor; married Kemel W. Dawkins, 1983; children: Morgan Elizabeth, Madison Lauren. Education: University of Pennsylvania, BA (magna cum laude), 1979; Harvard Medical School, MD, 1983. Religion: African Episcopal.

Career: Pennsylvania Hospital, Philadelphia, PA, intern, 1983-84, and resident, 1984-86; Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, New York, NY, 1986-89; Society Hill Dermatology, physician, 1989-; University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, assistant clinical professor of dermatology; College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University, assistant clinical professor of dermatology; St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital Center, Skin of Color Center, director, January 1999-.

Memberships: American Academy of Dermatology, chair, Women's Health Task Force; Skin of Color Society, board chair; United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania, board member; Jack and Jill, Inc. of Montgomery County, PA; James Brister Society, co-chair.

Awards: University of Pennsylvania, Alumni Award of Merit, 2000.

Addresses: Office—Society Hill Dermatology, 932 Pine St., Philadelphia, PA 19107.



Dermatology Times, February 2001, p. 33; August 2002, p. 38; June 2006, p. 1.

Health & Medicine Week, November 25, 2002, p. 5.

New York Times, November 3, 2005, p. G1.

O, The Oprah Magazine, November 2006, p. 151.


"Professional Background," Dr. Susan Taylor's BrownSkin.net, www.brownskin.net/people.html (July 4, 2007).

Society Hill Dermatology,www.societyhilldermatology.com (July 4, 2007).

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