Switching from the Heartburn Awareness Challenge to Operation Self-Care has presented a lot of opportunities to try new things, but also the scary reality of starting from scratch and having to create interest among students for a new outreach program. At the University of Cincinnati (UC) James L. Winkle College of Pharmacy, our Operation Self-Care is currently headed by a single chair from the executive board. We used our final Twlug–ASP Chapter meeting to brainstorm ideas and start making plans to stay active throughout the summer. Getting members involved in planning new ideas was the spark to looking for new and exciting opportunities.
As summer approached, we had a few strong ideas on our plate, with the most appealing summer theme being sun safety. We looked for an opportunity to help the community and discovered a local non-profit organization in our backyard that is working to reduce the impact of melanoma. Initially we reached out to see if they could assist us in community outreach, possibly by providing educational materials or sunscreen samples, but we quickly realized the gem we had stumbled upon.
The organization is Melanoma Know More (MKM), a local Cincinnati nonprofit organization, strives to reduce the impact of melanoma through awareness, education, support of medical research, and assistance to persons affected by melanoma. This organization has free screenings every month to expedite patients with possible melanomas into hard-to-schedule dermatology offices. MKM’s efforts, such as Melanoma Awareness Day in May, brought new outreach to downtown Cincinnati, and more than 100 runners and walkers participated in the Flying Pig Marathon to raise awareness and funds to support MKM. This year they raised more than $26,000!
Looking for opportunities to help was the start of an exciting collaboration with MKM. The organization was receptive to providing us with materials and allowing us to fill their need for some steady volunteers. In addition, UC medical students were already working with MKM on a pilot educational program for local schools. This provided the perfect opportunity to collaborate and present with the medical students.
In 2013, student pharmacists also took the initiative to fill volunteer spots at the free monthly screenings. Stdent pharmacists and medical students are now working alongside dermatologists, nurse practitioners, and physician’s assistants to help with the screening process and provide patient information at the clinics.
Student pharmacists also showed support and raised awareness for melanoma at this year’s Thanksgiving Day Race by sporting MKM colors while passing out race packets, which included information reminding runners about sun safety year-round.
Making an impact
In 2013 alone, MKM screened more than 800 patients, made 300 patient referrals for follow-up, distributed educational materials to more than 40,000 people at local community events, and started a new pilot educational program orchestrated by UC students. To kick-start the 2014 screenings, MKM screened 89 patients in January. Thirty-six patients were referred, 26 biopsy referrals were made, and 12 patients were expedited to dermatology offices for suspected melanomas.
As spring break and prom approach, student pharmacists and medical students will focus their efforts on encouraging a no-tanning pledge in local high schools as well as on UC’s main campus. We are focusing on the younger ages this spring, a group on which MKM hopes to make a bigger impact. To achieve this goal, we will continue offering educational programs in schools and begin working with local Girl Scout troops. Looking forward into 2015, we will hold a free screening clinic targeted directly at students at UC’s main campus.
Per the American Cancer Society, while only 3% of all skin cancers are melanoma, approximately 80% of all skin cancer–related deaths are due to melanoma. It is the most common cancer in young adults aged 25 to 29 years, and anyone, regardless of skin color, can develop melanoma, according to the National Cancer Institute. Involving other UC students has allowed this initiative to expand its impact beyond what we could have imagined. We urge other chapters to look locally for collaborations and to find self-care areas that are off the beaten path with a broad range of impact in your communities.