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SIU School of Medicine named a Skin Smart Campus

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The National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention has presented SIU School of Medicine (SIU SOM) its Skin Smart Campus Award in recognition of the school’s efforts to educate and protect against the disease. Medical school students and staff have pledged to promote skin cancer prevention and sun safety education and not allow indoor tanning devices on its the campus and in its affiliated buildings. 

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the U.S., with melanoma—the deadliest form of skin cancer—as one of the most common cancers diagnosed among young adults. The Indoor Tan-Free Skin Smart Campus (SSC) Initiative was developed in response to the 2014 U.S. Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent Skin Cancer, which drew a strong association between increased risk of skin cancer and indoor tanning use. The use of indoor tanning facilities before age 35 increases the risk for melanoma by 75 percent, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

SIU medical students Aaron Peach, Mary Dickerson and members of the SOM’s Dermatology Interest Group spearheaded the efforts to join the Skin Smart Campus Initiative. “The importance of sun safety can’t be overstated,” said Dickerson. “I feel proud that my school is actively fighting to prevent skin cancer in our patients and among ourselves.” 

Skin Smart representatives had seen the Dermatology Interest Group’s social media posts and contacted them about the initiative and award. “We’ve been given a great opportunity to build on our outreach and promote better health in the communities we serve,” said Peach. “It’s rewarding to educate patients about skin cancer prevention while having sunscreen available near the clinic where we see patients.”

As part of the SSC criteria, students have created an educational web page with information about the SSC Initiative and important facts about skin cancer prevention.

The National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention awards a year’s worth of sunscreen and a pair of sunscreen dispensers as part of the SSC Platinum Award. SIU SOM plans on keeping one sunscreen dispenser on the medical school campus and bringing the other to its volunteer events held in the community.

The SIU Dermatology division has supported the medical students’ efforts to engage with the Springfield community. Division Chief Dr. Lucinda Buescher said, “These learners have taken the lead to improve cancer prevention and do all they can to decrease skin cancer rates. We strive to train physicians who will engage in their communities after they graduate, to make an impact on the future of health care. Their enthusiasm is encouraging.”

In addition to the Skin Smart Campus Award, the Dermatology Interest Group has demonstrated a commitment to skin cancer education, awareness and prevention through other programs. The group has hosted educational sessions to empower local hairdressers and other beauty professionals to aid in early detection of skin cancer in their clients. The group has also recently launched a Sun Protection Outreach by Students (SPOTS) chapter, intended to teach teens and school-aged children about sun safe habits, skin self-exams, and to encourage tanning bed avoidance.

In a recent community outreach event, student representatives of the group visited Veterans Memorial Pool to spend the afternoon teaching patrons about the importance of summer sun safety and proper sunscreen application. Thanks to a generous donation from the SIU Dermatology division, they will also be presenting the Springfield Park District with a supply of free sunscreen for the pool’s guests.

The mission of SIU School of Medicine is to optimize the health of the people of central and southern Illinois through education, patient care, research and service to the community. SIU Medicine, the health care practice of the school of medicine, includes clinics and offices with more than 300 providers caring for patients throughout the region. 


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