Stanford Medicine magazine shows some skin — and all its complexity

The summer issue goes deep on the most superficial part of the body: skin. Also included is an excerpt from a new biography of polio-vaccine pioneer Jonas Salk and an article on the growing number of castoff donor hearts.

- By Rosanne Spector

Max Aguilera-Hellweg


Consider your skin. If you’re an average-sized adult, you’re covered with about 20 square feet of it. By weight, it’s your largest organ: about 8 pounds.

So it’s no surprise that when your skin has problems, those problems can be hefty.

In the new issue of Stanford Medicine magazine, you’ll find out how big those problems can be, and learn about new solutions to some of the most distressful skin conditions.

Research on skin is thriving, in large part, because skin is so easy to see, said Paul Khavari, professor and chair of dermatology at the School of Medicine.

“The accessibility of skin tissue to the application of new technologies, including genomics, proteomics, and metabolomics, make this a watershed moment for progress in alleviating the tremendous suffering caused by the global burden of skin disease,” Khavari said.

“One of the nice things about skin is that it’s amenable to direct inspection,” said Stanford dermatologist Anne Chang, MD, in the special report, “Skin deep: The science of the body’s surface.” “You can look at it. That makes it a great proving ground for evidence-based medicine.”

The magazine, produced with support from the Dermatology Department, includes articles not only about new treatments, but also insights into how skin works when it’s healthy and how to keep it that way. In a Q&A, actress and playwright Anna Deavere Smith, who is African-American, addresses skin’s social meaning, discussing her relationship to her own skin and how, as a writer and actor, she gets under the skin of her characters. The online version of the magazine includes audio of an interview with Smith.

Also in the issue:

  • A story about two young men coping with one of the world’s most painful diseases — the skin-blistering condition epidermolysis bullosa — including news about an experimental treatment to replace their broken genes. The online version includes a video of a patient at home and interviews with experts on the condition.
  • A report on progress being made after years of stagnation in treating the most deadly skin cancer: melanoma.
  • A look at one of Stanford Medicine’s great accomplishments in dermatology: successful treatment of a rare but dangerous rash — cutaneous lymphoma, a form of blood cancer that spreads to the skin.
  • Tips on keeping skin safe from the sun.
  • A feature on research seeking to answer the question: Why does skin age?
  • The story of a young woman who literally lost her smile and had it restored through surgery.


The issue also includes a story considering the rise in number of castoff donor hearts, despite a shortage of the organs for transplants, and an excerpt from Jonas Salk: A Life, a new biography of the polio-vaccine pioneer, written by Charlotte Jacobs, MD, professor emerita of medicine at Stanford.

The magazine is available online. Print copies are being sent to subscribers. Others can request a copy at (650) 723-6911 or by sending an email to

About Stanford Medicine

Stanford Medicine is an integrated academic health system comprising the Stanford School of Medicine and adult and pediatric health care delivery systems. Together, they harness the full potential of biomedicine through collaborative research, education and clinical care for patients. For more information, please visit

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