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On Aug. 21, 2013, filmmaker Humam Husari woke up to one of the most horrific attacks of the Syrian civil war.

The rebel-held region of Ghouta outside Damascus, Syria, was hit by rockets containing sarin gas, a deadly chemical generally considered to be a weapon of mass destruction.

The number of casualties is still uncertain according to the United Nations, but estimates range from 281 to around 1,400 casualties with 3,000 wounded.


Syrian director Humam Husari (right) and cameraman Sami al-Shami (center) film a scene. Photo by Bassam Khabieh/Reuters.

"Survivors reported that following an attack with shelling, they quickly experienced a range of symptoms, including shortness of breath, disorientation, eye irritation, blurred vision, nausea, vomiting and general weakness," reported UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Husari told Al Jazeera he heard car horns and ambulances that morning and saw on Facebook that the attacks happened just a few miles from his home.

He grabbed his video camera and started filming wounded victims in a nearby field hospital.

"I wasn't filming because I am a cameraman, I was filming because this is the only thing I could do for the victims," he told Reuters in 2016.

Journalists rushed to the scene to document the attack. Many of them did not survive because of exposure to the deadly gas. Husari was fortunate enough to survive.

"You don't have the chance to grieve. You don't have the chance to be sad," Husari told Al Jazeera in 2013. "You can just be panicked or worried, and feel helpless."

After the attacks, Husari continued to work as a journalist covering the war. "I feel I have a responsibility in the future to tell this story, these stories, through cinema and drama. That's usually what happens after every war," he told Reuters.

Husari (center left) and al-Shami (center right) operate a camera for a scene in Zamalka, in the Damascus suburbs. Photo by Bassam Khabieh/Reuters.

In 2016, Husari began production on a short film based on real events during the attacks.

The film was shot in Zamalka, a suburb where several rockets struck during the attack. He used local people who survived the attacks, all of whom were either witnesses or victims.

The self-financed film follows a man who loses his wife and child in the attacks and was denied time to bury them. He is then called up to take up arms to defend their region.

Making the film is a necessary experience for Husari.

It offers him an opportunity to process what he went through and also show the world as well.

Actors perform in the Husari-directed film. Photo by Bassam Khabieh/Reuters.

It was an emotional experience making the film. "I was amazed with how much those people were able to express their tragedy and to cooperate with me on this movie,"he told Reuters.

People re-enact the attack in a scene from the film. Photo by Bassam Khabieh/Reuters.

Despite all they’ve been through, they were willing to re-enact these terrible events to give voice to those who perished.

Husari told Reuters, "A 70-year-old man said to me: 'I want to be part of this movie because I lost 13 of my family ... I want the world to know what we've been through.'"

The short film involved local people who witnessed the attack. Photo by Bassam Khabieh/Reuters.

The film's star Mohamed Demashki, a former business student and bodybuilder, told Reuters, "It tries to convey to the world that the people who live here are not just fighters, they are not terrorists. They are people with a life. The war conditions them to become fighters," he said.

The Syrian government still denies responsibility for the Ghouta chemical attack.

The film will hopefully help the world understand the plight of everyday people in Syria.

All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

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Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

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