Lourdes Valdez and Ramneek Dhami, two medical students from the University of Nevada, Reno, hosted a free skin cancer screening clinic open to all University students and staff in the spring of 2022. The clinic was in partnership with the Nevada Cancer Coalition at the Center for Molecular Medicine.
Valdez and Dhami chose to host the event in May, which was Skin Cancer Awareness Month, hoping to promote preventative measures against skin cancer and healthy practices to protect against skin cancer. Sun.
“It is estimated that, for 2022, there will be 770 new cases of melanoma diagnosed in Reno,” Valdez said. “As medical students and residents of Nevada, we feel a passion for community involvement when it comes to skin cancer awareness because Reno has 252 sunny days and is at an increased elevation, which puts members of our local community at greater risk of contracting skin cancer.”
Valdez is passionate about raising skin cancer awareness for people of color, especially in a location exposed to high levels of sunlight year-round.
“As a darker-skinned Mexican-American citizen, I thought my pigmentation would protect me from the harmful rays of the sun which caused skin cancer. I never received any formal education growing up on this subject, especially for people who looked like me,” Valdez said. “So as a kid I would hardly ever wear sunscreen, and now as an adult that’s one of my biggest regrets and the one of the reasons I’m so passionate about raising skin cancer awareness.”
Likewise, Dhami also has a personal passion for bringing skin cancer awareness to people of color and bringing more education to these groups.
“It was a personal anecdote for me. I was never taught skin cancer prevention methods growing up because I think my family just didn’t know. I think it’s a story similar for many people of color and children of immigrants,” Dhami said.
Misconceptions that people of color don’t need to wear sunscreen can be dangerous because sun exposure can make individuals more susceptible to skin cancer. Medical students explained that sharing proper education and awareness is necessary, especially in communities where people don’t take necessary precautions like putting on sunscreen or checking their skin for lesions. new or changing.
“Many people don’t know about skin cancer, its dangers or its risk factors, unless there is a family history. Although the skin is the largest organ in the body, we tend not to take care of it like we do other parts of the body,” Dhami said. “We wanted to host the free clinic to spread skin cancer education and encourage people to take care of their skin, learn about skin cancer risk factors and be alert for signs of changes. cutaneous.”
Several groups supported the two at the event and helped provide resources and education for volunteers and students.
“This event would not have been possible without the gracious support of the Skin Cancer Dermatology Institute, the Nevada Cancer Coalition, the Office of Medical Research, and all of the incredible volunteers who participated in the event,” Valdez said. “SCDI’s incredible suppliers have not only given their time, but [also] their expertise, in educating patients and our fellow student volunteers about skin cancer. Christine Thompson of the Nevada Cancer Coalition was also instrumental in spreading education and set up a booth at the event with free sunscreen sticks, UV wristbands and general safety information. sunscreen to patients throughout the event.
According to Valdez and Dhami, 43 people associated with the University attended the free clinic. Vendors included six dermatology vendors, as well as 12 volunteer medical and associate medical students.
“We hope to repeat the event next year, on a larger scale and accessible to the public rather than those affiliated with the UNR. We hope to hold larger skin cancer screening clinics for the public, especially targeting areas that don’t have easy access to health care,” Valdez said. “We are also hosting presentations on skin cancer prevention in physical education and health classes in schools across the Washoe County School District and hope to expand these presentations to school athletic programs, as well as teams. intramural sports of the UNR campus.”