DETROIT, June 22, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Leaders of the Vitiligo Working Group (VWG), a physician-led organization working to improve the lives of people living with vitiligo, are stepping up their joint efforts to raise awareness and support for vitiligo, an often-misunderstood chronic autoimmune disease affecting more than 70 million people worldwide, through its global awareness campaign, Step Up For Vitiligo.
Aimed for the public, as well as the dermatologic and medical communities, the campaign features an award-winning video entitled, "Vitiligo: Truth, Hope and Change", which includes several globally recognized vitiligo experts and a racially diverse group of actual vitiligo patients with compelling personal stories. Widely shared through social media, this VWG video recently earned a Telly Award for Excellence in online video (Charitable/Non-Profit Category), presented to director and producer, Gordon Recht, DGA, a two-time Emmy Award winner.
In the words of Henry W. Lim, MD, chair of Dermatology at Henry Ford Hospital, who co-founded the Vitiligo Working Group with Iltefat Hamzavi, M.D., a Henry Ford dermatologist in 2011,"We've assembled an impressive group of medical experts to champion this cause for raising awareness about vitiligo and the millions of people who are living with it," Dr. Lim says. "We're hopeful our campaign will lead to more research funding and developing new treatments for treating this skin disease."
Vitiligo Working Group member dermatologists who are spearheading this initiative include: Nada Elbuluk, MD, MSc, Assistant Professor, Ronald O. Perelman Department of Dermatology, New York University; Pearl Grimes, MD, Director of the Vitiligo & Pigmentation Institute of Southern California and Clinical Professor of Dermatology, University of California, Los Angeles; Iltefat Hamzavi, MD, Senior Staff Physician, Henry Ford Hospital's Department of Dermatology; Amit Pandya, MD, J. B. Shelmire Professor of Dermatology, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center; John E. Harris, MD, PhD, Director, University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS) Vitiligo Clinic and Research Center and Assistant Professor of Medicine, Dermatology Division, UMMS; and Michelle Rodrigues, MBBS, co-founder of the vitiligo clinic and consultant dermatologist at St. Vincent's and The Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne, Australia.
These experts have been sharing their vitiligo expertise through mainstream and dermatologic media to help spread the facts and raise awareness about this life-altering disease.
Contrary to popular misconceptions, vitiligo is not just a cosmetic issue, it is an autoimmune disorder that manifests itself as changes in skin color, which Dr. Iltefat Hamzavi, co-founder of the VWG, poignantly describes as "white patches on the skin that affect the soul." Vitiligo is not contagious, and can affect males and females of all races, ethnicities and ages. Currently, there is no cure for vitiligo, but there are treatments and therapies that can help. However, many of these treatments are not covered by insurance. There is a dire need for more research funding to drive innovation for better treatments.
In commemoration of World Vitiligo Day on June 25, the anniversary of the death of Michael Jackson (who suffered from vitiligo), VWG colleagues Dr. John Harris and Dr. Nada Elbuluk will present "Vitiligo: Truth, Hope and Change" to a large gathering hosted by VitFriends, a major vitiligo patient support group. Henry Ford Hospital dermatologist Richard Huggins, M.D. will also present at this meeting.
Representing the VWG, they will also join hundreds of patients and their loved ones for the First Vitiligo Rally in front of the US Capitol Steps, led by VitFriends, on Saturday, June 25 at noon. The rally's purpose is to unify, inspire and empower the vitiligo community, and to help deliver the message to legislators that vitiligo is a serious autoimmune disease that needs to be taken seriously, as it can be psychologically devastating and socially isolating. The rally's presenters include: John E. Harris, MD and Seemal Desai, MD, several patients, patient support leaders, and vocalists.
About the Vitiligo Working Group (VWG)
The VWG was established in 2011 by Henry Ford Hospital physicians, Drs. Iltefat Hamzavi and Henry W. Lim, who continue to lead the organization today with members from over 15 countries. VWG is governed by an independent board of physicians and supporters who span a variety of institutions and backgrounds. To fulfill its mission, the VWG brings together clinicians, researchers, support groups, industry, patients, patient advocacy groups and regulatory bodies to raise awareness about vitiligo, advance understanding of the disease and its therapies, and ultimately, find a cure. Plans to further unify vitiligo efforts worldwide are underway and will be announced in the future.
SOURCE Vitiligo Working Group; Henry Ford Health System